“Now Dinah, Jacob’s daughter by Leah, went out to visit the women of that place. When Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of that country saw her, he seized her, raped her and dishonored her” (Genesis 34:1-2).
Rape is the act of forcefully having sexual intercourse with another person, without consent, against the person’s will. Put succinctly, it is any sexual act forced by any person upon another person (cf. English online dictionary).
From the definition of rape, one discovers that by seizing Dinah, Shechem sexually exploited her, and so dishonored her. Which means that Shechem forcefully had sexual intercourse with Dinah without her consent, and against her will, thus dishonouring her.
Although rape could be perpetuated by either male against female, or female against male (and in recent times, males against males, and females against females), history has however shown that, females are the most victims of rape and sexual violence.
In 2015, UNICEF reported that one out of every four girls had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18 (cf. “Sexual Violence,” UNICEF, 2015).
Consequent on the premise above, this article advocates for justice for our sisters who are victims of sexual violence, and rape.
In human history, rape is seen as one of the most atrocious acts carried out on fellow humans. In the case of Dinah, though she survived, the dishonour brought upon her was one that affected not only her, but her entire household. Consequently, her brothers, Simeon and Levi in revenge, killed not only Shechem, but all the males in the city, going as far as plundering the entire city (cf. Genesis 34:13-30).
From ancient history, particularly in Greco-Roman history, rape along with arson,
treason and murder was regarded as a capital crime. Consequently, rapists were subject to a wide range of capital punishments that were so brutal, and very often were carried out in the presence of onlookers. At times kinsmen of the victims were given the option of executing the punishment themselves (cf. “History of rape,” Wikipedia.org).
In the early 14th century in England, history has it that a victim of rape might be expected to gouge out the eyes and/or sever the offender’s testicles herself (cf. “The Medieval Blood Sanction and the Divine Beneficene of Pain: 1100–1450”, Trisha Olson, Journal of Law and Religion , 22 JLREL 63, 2006).
The penalties above in ancient past clearly show the intensity of rape. The graveness of rape and sexual assault, has made different countries of the world to develop codes such as, criminal codes, penal codes, child rights acts, girl child acts, women rights acts, etc. When these codes are applied, they serve as penalties to rapists and sexual assaulters, and as deterrents to would be rapists and sexual assaulters. However, the sad truth is that, vulnerable people are either raped, or sexually assaulted nearly everyday, without getting justice.
Rape in history has shown that it leads to two forms of deaths:
A. Actual death: This death is the result of the victim’s persistent refusal to allow herself to be defiled. Resultantly, she is either strangled, or battered to death.
B. Psychological death: This is the trauma that the victim often has to contend with for the rest of her life. This trauma very often leads to depression, and if not properly check, it could lead to actual death, either with the victim committing suicide, or death resulting from depression.
Some victims equally die psychologically, by becoming hardened, either turning to prostitution, or living the rest of their lives hating members of the opposite sex.
The question then is, how can we put a stop to rape? There are many ways. But I will however recommend the following:
A. Justice delayed is justice denied: Every victim of inhumanity demands justice; swift justice. A rapist or sexual assaulter should be charged with rape, most especially if the victim of rape or assault is able to identify who the rapist or assaulter is. Justice for victims of rape or sexual assault should not be cherry picked, it should not matter who the rapist or assaulter is, let the law prevail. When that happens, it will serve as an antidote of healing for the victim and her family. And a deterrent to would be rapists and sexual assaulters.
We need a legal system that is trustworthy enough to make rape and sexually assaulted victims speak out, with the assurance that justice will be served, and served swiftly.
B. See something, say something: When someone begins to make undue advances towards you, do not hesitate to report that person to appropriate authorities. Do not die in silence. Speak out so that you can get help. You are not an object of sexual exploitation, or an inferior creature, but an image and likeness of God, equal before other creatures. Speak out, do not allow your rights to be trampled upon. For prevention is better than cure.
C. Neighborhood watch: Statistics have shown that rape and sexual assault very often take place in insecure environments, where the victim is often left to her fate. Thus, where there is adequate neighborhood watch, rapists and sexual assaulters will easily be known. There will be no hiding place for them.
Although not all rapists and sexual assaulters are armed robbers, all of them however belong to the same criminal group perpetuating inhumanity, which means that they have certain things in common. So, when one notices any strange behaviour or movements in the neighborhood, one should not hesitate to report such to appropriate authorities. Please be your sister’s keeper.
SOME CASES IN FOCUS:
Of the numerous cases of rape and sexual assault in Nigeria, let us take a look at these four major ones that took place in the last decade. Three were perpetuated against minors, and the latest one, against a very young adult female.
A. VIVIAN OGU: On that sorrowful night of November 15, 2009, a group of armed robbers invaded the home of Mr and Mrs Ogu in Benin City, Edo State. In the cause of their atrocious acts, they dragged their daughter, a 14yrs old Vivian Ogu to a lonely spot in order to rape her, but she vehemently resisted them, because she was a virgin. Consequently, she was shot, and left in the pool of her own blood. According to a reporter on Thisday Newspaper, “If only the robbers knew they would make her a heroine in death, they might have had a second thought” (Thisday Newspaper, November 11th, 2019).
B. ESE ORURU: On August 12th, 2015, a 13yrs old Ese Oruru was abducted from her mother’s shop in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, and was taken to Kano State and married off to her abductor, Yinusa Dahiru, a tricycle driver.
In Kano, Ese was renamed ‘Aisha’ following her forced marriage to Dahiru (cf. SAHARA REPORTERS, NEW YORK, NOV 07, 2019).
After nearly five years of legal battle, the Federal High Court sitting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, which was presided over by Justice Jane Inyang, on May 21st, found Yinusa guilty, and sentenced him to 26yrs imprisonment (cf. osmeknews.com).
C. ELIZABETH OCHANYA: On October 17th, 2018, 13yrs old Elizabeth Ochanya, from Benue State, died traumatized, due to Vesico Vagina Fistula (VVF) complications from the multiple rapes she suffered in the hands of then 51yrs old lecturer in the Department of Catering and Hotel Management, Benue State Polytechnic, Mr Andrew Ogbuja, and his son, Victor, a student of the Federal University of Agriculture, Markurdi. “The deceased was living with them and for many years they defiled her through her vagina and anus” (cf. Press Release by Trade Union of Nigeria, October 26th, 2018).
D. VERA UWAILA OMOZUWA: As the world was still in shock of the gruesome murder of a 46yrs old African-American, George Floyd, on May 25th, by four American policemen, the Omozuwas were thrown into mourning days later, following the rape and subsequent death of their 22yrs old daughter, Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100level Microbiology student of the University of Benin, who had gone to study privately inside one of the parishes of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, in Benin City.
We therefore seek justice for our beloved sisters, so that those who are currently under the chains of this inhuman act, could be courageous enough to speak out. Fellow Nigerians, do we fold our hands, and allow this inhumanity to persist? Nigerians wake up!
For the murder of one American, America is shut down by protests. But for the murders of Nigerians everyday, what are fellow Nigerians doing? Let us stop this indifference towards our fellow compatriots.
Let this outcry for justice in the evil perpetuated nearly everyday by fellow humans on our sisters be taken to every State of our country, and even beyond. Let us not relent in this protest, so that those in authority will wake up from their slumber and ACT.
For never again should we allow inhumanity to prevail over our collective familyhood. We must use social media as our weapon. Let us walk the talk.
Let us be our sisters’ keepers, so that together, we can fight this common enemy, and prevail over it. Yes we can!
© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, MSP. June 2020
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.