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This book is a product of a research project called ‘voices of youth’ carried out - page 68 / 125

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A Lost Generation: Young People and Conflict in Africa

these marriages around the issue of children born in captivity. Husbands generally do not want to take responsibility for these children, whose clan of origin is not known and who are perceived as a burden. Community and peer pressure, as well as pressure from the man’s family, add further strains to the marriage. The problem is made worse by the increasing poverty in IDP camps, as well as the deterioration of the extended family support system. Sometimes the wife is chased away, while in other circumstances the man runs away and abandons the woman, or stops giving

her any assistance.

Discrimination by officialdom

Many child mothers fail to get justice either from the community or from legal structures such as the police and the courts. For example, it is commonplace for child mothers reporting their cases to be advised to settle their cases out of court. Cases which the child mothers are likely to bring to court include defilement25 cases and cases involving property, especially disputes over property between the child mothers and their husbands and in-laws. Parents of child mothers often withdraw allegations of defilement and negotiate privately, after the perpetrators have offered them money, thereby denying their daughters the chance of seeking legal redress. Bribing court officials is not unheard of, especially if the accused is well- to-do. The situation of poverty which northern Uganda finds itself in encourages corruption, since people are open to bribes and since those who wish to pursue cases through the courts often lack the financial resources needed to do so. This is generally the case with the child mothers; the main expense is the cost of a medical examination to prove that the girl is no longer a virgin.

In many cases, the primary person denying the child mothers their rights is a parent, husband or in-law. However, duty bearers such as local council members, Amnesty Commission officials, and development workers are in a position where they can and should uphold the girls’ rights even to their family members, for example by interceding with them not to send the girl away or by insisting that she be given access to her property. Often they fail to do this. Moreover, people who are in a position to provide the child mothers with services, such as the local authorities, the Amnesty Commission or the NGOs who provide support services to ex-combatants, themselves look down on the child mothers, speak to them insultingly, turn them away or sometimes even treat them violently, on the slightest pretext or none. However, it is also true that some local government officers, police officers, and NGO staff members are very much aware of the discrimination meted out against child mothers, and try hard to support the girls and ensure they are treated properly.

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The term used for statutory rape in Uganda

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