The function of forced marriage
The power inherent in the ownership of girl-children and women by male LRA soldiers is a twisted and extended form of that which exists in more familiar social settings. Government reports describe a broader patriarchal social context in Uganda in which women and girls have a lower status than males within the family, community, and society at large. Wife ownership, polygamy and a husband's exclusive sexual rights over his wife (which means that rape in marriage is effectively not recognised) all exist in society beyond the LRA.(15) A report prepared by the Ministry of Gender and Community Development states that ''most people have been socialised to look at domestic violence as a normal practice''.(16)
What is specific to the LRA is the extent, nature, and function of violence against women, and the particularly brutal, hierarchical and institutionalized circumstances through which abuses of women's human rights are promoted. The ownership of women and girls resulting from abduction, forced conscription and forced marriage is part and parcel of the military strategy of the LRA and the social order devised by the leadership. It is both a reflection and the foundation of that social order.
The allocation of women is a reward system for male soldiers. It gives them persons to carry out domestic tasks and provides them with sexual access. R., a 15-year old boy, puts it succinctly:
T. describes a commander being rewarded for fighting:
Given that LRA military operations include abducting other children and deliberately and arbitrarily killing civilians and captured government soldiers, "encouragement" is an incentive for such behaviour.
Being allocated women is also a source of prestige and a proof of status. The higher the rank within the LRA hierarchy, the greater the number of "wives" or "helpers". R. again:
Sixteen-year old G. was made a "wife" after she was abducted in April 1994:
The function of forced marriage as a pillar of the LRA social order is demonstrated by the strict regulations imposed on the sexual behaviour of both boys and girls, which R.'s testimony refers to above. Once a girl has been abducted, sexual contact with members of the LRA other than the allocated ''owner'' is strictly forbidden. It is punished by the killing of both the boy and girl in the case of consensual sex or of the boy in the case of rape. A girl abducted in October 1996 reported that one of her classmates was raped before she was allocated to a man: