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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 66 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

conceived and/or had children from the bush. Some believe that rituals such as stepping on eggshells can be effective in such cases, but others are not sure, and continue to believe that a person who, for example, marries a girl who had been with the LRA in the bush, would run the risk of acquiring cen from them.

Secondly, in the ideal Acholi tradition, the right way for young Acholi girls and boys to develop relationships is through a courtship process which is carefully controlled

by

their

parents.

One

of

the

impacts

of

profoundly is the widespread abandonment

the war which parents regret most of these courtship practices (El-Bushra

and

Sahl

2005,

chapter

on

Uganda).

In

the

past,

girls

who

became

pregnant

before

marriage were heavily penalised, and were considered their families. Although the behaviour has changed as a

to have brought shame to result of circumstances, the

ideals

have

not,

and

the

formerly

abducted

child

mothers,

even

if

their

pregnancies

were the result of rape, are still considered to be devalued and a family. This is a major reason why girls hesitate to come forward rights, since they are aware of the disrespect in which they are held.

shame to the to claim their

Thirdly, in normal circumstances girls are not expected to bring up children on their own but to depend on their husbands. When they do so, the normal pattern of resource management is threatened. Girls with children and no husband need land in order to feed themselves and their children, yet girls traditionally have no right of inheritance and cannot claim land from their fathers. Hence the child mothers are under pressure from their families to marry and find a husband to take care of them and their children, and even in extreme cases to leave altogether and find whatever source of income they can. Yet finding a husband and maintaining a good marital relationship is itself fraught with problems for the child mothers.

Discrimination from in-laws Most of the marriages contracted by formerly abducted child mothers break down because of the attitudes of the in-laws. All the child mothers interviewed had poor relationships with their in-laws. In-laws consider the formerly abducted girls as ‘second-hand’, and therefore not fit wives for their son or brother. In-laws often mistreat and insult the girls so badly that they become unhappy in the marriage and eventually leave. Many young mothers reported that they are chased away by their in-laws, especially their mothers-in-law, whenever the latter discover that the girls have returned from the bush, or when they or their children begin having health problems. This includes infertility of the couple (assumed to be a result of cen), even if the wife has already had children from her previous relationships in the bush; the possibility that the husband might be the source of the infertility is not considered.

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