Women and Girls at War: “Wives”, Mothers, and Fighters in the Lord’s Resistance Army

Data from Uganda challenge conventional notions about the role of females during and after war. Women and girls recruited by the LRA play active roles and are not passive victims. We show how LRA treatment of females—especially strict rules against civilian rape and the use of forced marriage—serves an instrumental purpose, enhancing control of the forces and protection from HIV. Finally, in contrast to conventional beliefs, we find that only a minority of females exhibit serious psychosocial reintegration difficulties, whether psychological distress or persistent community and family rejection. Abduction also has little adverse impact on their education and economic activity, although this is largely because of the tragic dearth of opportunities for all females. Evidence from a growing set of cases suggests that these patterns may be of general relevance, and imply need for a shift in post-conflict policy towards females in war.

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