November 9, 2012

Human Trafficking and Joseph Kony’s “Wife”

Joseph Kony

Joseph Kony is one of the most wanted men in the world. (Photo credit: Digital Trends)

By Mikhail Bell

Most American 16-year-olds anticipate the thrill of finally receiving a driver’s license and junior prom. Across the pond in Central Africa, different realities inform the teenage experience, as the rescue of Joseph Kony’s wife showed.

In February, Invisible Children (IC) staff, as part of an UN-funded flier program, announced a high-profile individual: Joseph Kony’s wife.

“You were a wife for Joseph Kony?” a video interviewer queried. Staring aloofly into the distance, the 19-year-old nodded, clearly trying to distance herself from the emotional trauma.

“I was not alone, he had many wives. There were almost forty of them.” she explained.

Kony’s former “wife”, who was abducted at age 16, almost understated this point. The United Nations reports that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has abducted over 30,000 children to work as “porters”, soldiers and ‘wives’ since the 1980s. Many of the abducted girls served as odalisques to their much older captors.

During her captivity, the young woman tried to escape with two of Kony’s Sudanese wives but was caught. The trio was forced to disrobe in front of a group where they were beaten with machetes and warned that another escape attempt would lead to death.

However, Kony’s young trafficking victim was undeterred despite LRA assertions that no one had ever evaded them without punishment.  The incident only increased her desire to leave, as she explained:

“What helped me to leave… was the flier I saw there. We saw the pictures of people who had escaped. It was then the idea came to my mind, I will try to escape. Whatever Kony says, I will try to escape. That is when God did something…”

After three years of captivity, she gathered some food and a handful of supplies in advance of another raid. Instead of pillaging the villages however, she escaped during the chaos that ensued.

While the Lord’s Resistance Army, which Joseph Kony founded, is a militant group, most of their resources are not acquired through self-sustaining endeavors. Shrunken to an estimated 300 fighters, the LRA often raid villages, kidnapping boys and girls for military service. They also come away with food and supplies to stave off their starvation, which ultimately reflects their lack of outside support.

Is This Sex Trafficking?

Yes and here’s why. Human trafficking refers to a spectrum of activities that violate an individual’s sense of autonomy, and equally their God-given rights. The United Nations defines human trafficking as:

“The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs;” (Article 3b, emphasis added)

In the interest of tact, I will leave descriptions about what happened to female “soldiers” in the male-dominated LRA to your imagination.

In our world, idealism is the drink that numbs human rights advocates from the harsh realities of the situations they seek to change. However, every once in a while, precious moments, like the liberation of one of Joseph Kony’s wives, validate the hours spent toiling for a good cause.

Here is the original interview, originally released in May:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEUEN9ZOXwk]

You can find more information about Invisible Children’s upcoming event called MOVE: DC on their website.


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