If you clicked on this post, you are probably aware of the #Justiceforuwa movement. Although the issue of rape and sexual assault has always been frowned upon, it seems to have increased in Nigeria.
In recent times, a sudden spike in the occurrence of rape and sexual assault has caused a renewed anger towards these dastardly acts. The death of Uwa, a girl who was raped and murdered in a church, has somewhat served as a tipping point of emotions.
What does the bible say concerning sexual assault? Would there be justice for Uwa? Would the bible’s standpoint on these issues, ensure Justice for Uwa?
The Sad Story of Uwa’s Death
Uwavera was raped and killed in church premises on the 27th of May 2020. From known accounts, she had been a frequent user of the church premises to study. The gatekeeper of the church had allowed her entrance to the church premises on that fateful day. At 07:00 pm, the Gatekeeper had come to get the keys from Uwa when he met her bleeding on the floor of the church; she was rushed to a hospital, where she was later confirmed dead.
This occurrence is quite gruesome, as she was raped and hit on the head with a fire extinguisher, which resulted in her death. Would there be justice for Uwa? This question has sparked outrage not only within the female community but within the whole society at large. Protests have been mounted by different groups, not only as a response to Uwa’s case but also to various cases of rape and murder all over the country.
Rape and Sexual Assault in the Bible
The question of rape and sexual assault is one that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of both moralists and religious persons. As Christians, the Bible is our authority on any subject. What does the bible say about sexual assault and rape?
There are three major occurrences of rape in the old testament, all of which had repercussions that were far from pleasant
The first reference to anything relating to rape or sexual assault in scripture was made in the book of Genesis.
Genesis 34: 2 (NKJV) “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and violated her.”
The occurrence had happened to Jacob’s daughter Dinah, and the use of the phrase “violated her” shows the bible’s view on rape as it considers the act a violation of the person being raped. Other versions read the phrase as “Humiliated her” or simply “raped her.”
The second major occurrence was in Judges 19: 22-28 here, the concubine of a Levite was raped and abused, and then left for dead. This is very similar to the case of Uwa.
The third instance of rape in the old testament can be found
2 Samuel 13: 14(NIV) “But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.”
This story was that of David’s children, David’s son Amnon raped his daughter Tamar. He had pretended that he was sick and had asked his father to send Tamar to tend to him. He used this opportunity to defile her.
These three biblical examples are the major cases where the term rape, defilement, or humiliation was used. It is very important to note that in all the above cases, the action of rape resulted in a large number of deaths, or the deaths of therapists in particular.
A common thread to be seen in the above cases, are
- There was a lustful desire on the part of the rapist.
- Lack of self-control by the rapist.
- The physical activity carried out.
Asides these three occurrences, looking at the story of Lot and the angels that saved him and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, there was an attempt to sodomize the angels who stayed with Lot.
This points to the fact that even men could be victims of rape. The repercussion of this act upon Sodom and Gomorrah clearly shows God’s disposition to the act of sexual assault and rape.
Justice for Rape Victims
Deuteronomy 22: 25 – 26 “But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbour and murders him, so in this case. When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.”
The book of Deuteronomy contains some of the laws given to Moses to guide the conduct of the Israelites on their ways of life. this verse condemns rape, and even weighs rape in the same class as murder. The resultant punishment for the rape of a woman is dead, such as it is for one who commits murder.
The New Testament does not specifically mention the act of rape, but it does leave room for the inclusion of the sin when it lists the works of the flesh in Galatians 5: 19-21. Verse 21 reads:
“Envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Seeing that it classify murders here, and as shown in Deuteronomy that the sin of rape is quite equal to that of murder, its inclusion amongst the work of the flesh is legitimate along with its punishment on earth.
Justice for Uwa
A rapist is a wicked person; this is both by normal and biblical standards. Various scriptures condemn the wicked and prescribe very harsh punishments for those who are considered wicked. God has been deemed just and carries out judgment when necessary.
For victims of rape, scripture provides comfort for those who have been humiliated and hurt, and those who are victims of rape are hurt and humiliated by the rapist, and sometimes shunned by society, which ought not to be. In all cases though, God provides help for the weak and support for the brokenhearted.
The rape and murder of Uwa were wrong, detestable and a violation of every known moral and religious code and the law should set out to find and appropriately punish the perpetrators of this act.
The laws of God are against the act of rape, and quite stiffer punishments are meant for those who commit this sin. The bible also ensures comfort for those affected, the victims, and people who mourn with them depending on the situation.
While it might offend the general populace, scriptures provide room for the forgiveness of sins notwithstanding the crime. This means that a rapist who truly repents would be forgiven. With this said this does not preclude the rapist from being punished for his sin, as a person who truly repents would confess his sins and receive the appropriate punishment from the law.