This thesis explores responses to rape in the Acholi sub-region of northern Uganda, based on ethnographic research in two villages. Northern Uganda has been at the heart of international justice debates in the context of ongoing conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army and Ugandan government. Two opposing representations of Acholi society have emerged: as innately forgiving and able to deal with mass crime through traditional justice; or as needing and often supporting formal legal justice. These characterisations miss crucial aspects of Acholi reality, including the profound value of social harmony, and deep distrust of distanced authorities. Experience of rape are predicated on understandings of wrongdoing related to challenges posed to social harmony.

This thesis adds empirical, locally-¬grounded, and culturally-¬specific evidence in support of a more nuanced explanation of rape and its aftermath than is familiar in the analytical/normative frameworks in post-¬atrocity justice debates or anti–rape feminist activist discourse.