Forced Marriage and the Absence of Gang Rape: Explaining Sexual Violence by the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda

Kramer, Sophie

The Lord's Resistance Army, notorious for committing horrific atrocities against civilians in northern Uganda, presents a puzzle. The LRA systematically abducted girls and forcibly married them to the rebel commanders and soldiers. Yet rape outside of these marriages was rare, and gang rape of civilians was noticeably absent from the LRA's repertoire of violence. This paper examines the practices of sexual violence employed by the LRA during its rebellion in northern Uganda and analyzes the functional purpose of its violence. It will pose two questions. First, why did the LRA practice forced marriage? Second, why did the LRA not commit more rape outside of forced marriage than was observed? I argue that the LRA's patterns of sexual violence result largely from its operating in an environment with few material resources and no popular support with an army composed almost entirely of abducted youth. Forced marriage and the prohibition of extra-marital rape were instrumental to the rebels' success under these circumstances.


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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February 10, 2014