Mothering in the Aftermath of Forced Marriage and Wartime Rape: The Complexities of Motherhood in Postwar Northern Uganda


  • Myriam Denov McGill University
  • Amber Green McGill University
  • Atim Angela Lakor
  • Janet Arach


During northern Uganda’s civil war (1986-2007), the abduction, forced marriage, and impregnation of females was a key military strategy of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA abducted an estimated sixty thousand children—30 percent of which were girls—who were used as combatants, porters, domestic workers, and were forced to marry male commanders. Roughly ten thousand of these abducted girls became pregnant from sexual violence, and gave birth to two or more children each. This paper explores the realities of mothering in the aftermath of wartime sexual violence. Drawing upon interviews with a sample of twenty-seven northern Ugandan mothers who bore children as a result of wartime rape, the paper explores the ambivalence and complexities of mothering in the postwar period—including sexual violence, pregnancy and mothering during LRA captivity, as well as stigma and rejection, and changing family structures in the postwar period. The paper highlights the ways in which war shapes and informs all aspects of mothering—both during and following the conflict—and how it alters how women come to understand their life stories as part of the motherline. We conclude with key implications for service provision and policy.

Author Biographies

Myriam Denov, McGill University

Denov is a full professor at McGill University and holds the Canada Research Chair in youth, gender, and armed conflict. Her research interests lie in the areas of children and families affected by war, migration, and its intergenerational impact.

Amber Green, McGill University

Green holds a MSW from McGill University, where she worked on a research project led by Dr. Myriam Denov on children born of wartime sexual violence. She currently works as a clinical therapist in child and adolescent mental health in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Atim Angela Lakor

Lakor is the founder of Watye Ki Gen (We Have Hope), a Ugandan organization whose members are formerly abducted women held in the bush, and who work for the rights and the welfare of children born in captivity.

Janet Arach

Arach is co-founder of the community-based organization Watye Ki Gen (We Have Hope) in northern Uganda. Her organization’s members are women formerly abducted and held in Lord Resistance Army’s captivity. They work to advance the social and economic rights and welfare of children born in captivity.


How to Cite

Denov, M., Green, A., Lakor, A. A., & Arach, J. (2018). Mothering in the Aftermath of Forced Marriage and Wartime Rape: The Complexities of Motherhood in Postwar Northern Uganda. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 9(1). Retrieved from