Forced Marriage within the Lord's Resistance Army, Uganda

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Khristopher Carlson & Dyan Mazurana
Eastern Africa

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)—a rebel movement fi ghting thegovernment of Uganda—is estimated to have kidnapped over 60,000Ugandan children and youth. Those abducted include one in three maleadolescents and one in six female adolescents in northern Ugandan. Whilein captivity thousands of abducted young women and girls—most of whomare from the Acholi, Lango, and Iteso peoples—fought, cooked, carried supplies,fetched water, and cleaned for LRA fi ghters and commanders, includingthose who organized and carried out their abductions. Many of thoseabducted also served as forced wives to male members of the group. Half ofthose forced into marriage bore children. A minority of abducted femaleswas forced to fi ght and some used violence against their own communities.

This report is based on in-depth investigation, primarily drawing on thetestimony of 103 women and girls who were abducted and forced intomarriage with LRA combatants. The authors also interviewed parents andfamily members of abducted females; ex-LRA combatants; religious, clan,and community leaders; local government offi cials; Acholi and Langi clanleaders and people responsible for customary law; lawyers, and local, national,and international NGOs working in northern Uganda.

This paper focuses on the experiences of those women and girls forciblymarried within the LRA and their attempts to reintegrate in civilian lifeafter captivity. It documents and describes how females were often beaten,raped, impregnated, and forced to assume the role of ‘wife' to the fi ghtersor commanders to whom they were given. As this paper documents, theresponsibility for the crimes committed against these females clearly lieswith the top LRA leadership which played the central role in orchestratingthe systematic and widespread abduction of females for the purpose offorced marriages.

As evidence within this paper demonstrates, none of these forced marriagesare recognized or binding as formal marriages by any legal standard inUganda or within northern Ugandan customary law. To the contrary, bothUgandan and international law criminalize elements that comprise forcedmarriage. Forced marriages, for example, include international crimes ofrape, sexual slavery, enforced pregnancy, enslavement and torture, and innearly all cases, forced labor. More recently, it has been argued by prosecutorswithin the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) that the coercivenature and imposition of the status of marriage serves as the means fromwhich these individual crimes can be perpetrated, making the act of forcedmarriage more than the sum of its parts.2 The effects forced marriages haveon a female, both physically and psychologically, as well as how she is treatedby her family and community upon return, infl uence her choices andability to fully realize her rights as a citizen.

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Forced Marriages Lord\'s Resistance Army Uganda, Mazurana and Carlson, May 2008