KROBO (Ghana



IndexAfricaGhana → Krobo

(Thsi-Speakers, Tallensi, Akan / Ashanti, Fanti, Kokomba, (S)Isala, Ga, Ewe, Vagla, Krobo


In Agomanya, it is said of masturbation that “the freedom enjoyed in the love life of the young makes the practice of it unnecessary” (Kaye). Steegstra (1996, 2002, 2004)[1]extensively studied the interplay of Christian values and Krobo female initiations called dipo. “In female initiation ceremonies the sexual attractiveness and health of initiates are key themes (e.g. Lutkehaus 1995: 20), and dipo is no exception. That after dipo a girl is allowed to enter into sexual relationships goes against Christian morality, which situates such relationships within marriage. Therefore, many Christian Krobo see the rites as the catalyst of teenage pregnancies, prostitution, and further ‘immoral behaviour” (S., 2002:p201). In 1873, Schönfeld marks:


“The five-year-old girl is aware of all the mess of the sins and shame of the mother. Living in the same rooms of immorality with the adults, she hears everything, imitates the mother. My report would become filthy in its expressions if I were to go into details. When the child with an already spoilt mind, and most of the time an already defiled body, enters the twelfth year, then it is taken to the Mountain. There it is carefully instructed into all the filthy sexual secrets (as we would say in Europe; here people don’t know secrets in this respect), initiated, seduced, shown how to disturb the fruit of the sin, and above all the Krobo woman there becomes the bearer of the fetish veneration and corrupt customs. When the girl, who has grown up in the meantime, comes from the Mountain, she is fully uncommitted in all her movements” (translated by Steegstra, 2002:p212)


“A fiancé was allowed to visit his future wife from time to time when she was still ‘under custom’. Sexual play between them was condoned, but full intercourse was strictly forbidden” (Huber 1993 [1963]:98-100, as cited by Steegstra, 2002:p212).


The age of the initiand is debated and seems historically contingent (Steegstra, 2004:p210-3), which furthers a problematisation of uniform sexological significance attributed in/to the rite. Thelarche (not menarche) seems to have been important since breasts were massaged with stones to delay its timing (ibid., p205-6)


Male a-ritual circumcision occurs neonatally (S., 2004:p204-5).









Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. Volume I. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Steegstra, M. (1996) Dipo in Discussie. Christelijke Visies op Initiatieriten voor Krobo Meisjes (Zuid-Ghana). Unpublished MA, University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Steegstra, M. (2002) ‘A Mighty Obstacle to the Gospel’: Basel Missionaries, Krobo Women, and Conflicting Ideas of Gender and Sexuality, J Religion in Africa 32,2:200-30; Steegstra, M. (2004) Resilient Rituals - Krobo initiation and the politics of culture in Ghana. Series ‘Modernity and Belonging’, Vol. 3. Münster-Hamburg-Berlin-Wien-London: LIT Verlag