Uwa Omozuwa was a 22 year old woman and a student of University of Benin. She had a life, had a future, had plans she was working towards. It was her drive to make her dreams come true that saw her leave home on Saturday for a branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Ikpoba Hill to study. It should have been the safest place for her. Nigeria is highly religious and places of worship are considered sacred. They are also usually heavily guarded considering most church buildings house hundreds of thousands of Naira in equipment. Uwa was brutally attacked by an unknown assailant who raped her then beat her up to cover his tracks. She died this morning, triggering the outpouring of support and outrage which started the #JusticeForUwa hashtag.
Since the news broke of Uwa’s assault and rape, women across social media have risen up to protest the brutality she faced and her death. They have used her memory as a torch to shine a light on the pervasive rape culture that prioritizes men’s pleasure over women’s lives and continues to demand that women simply accept violence and violation targeted towards them. Women are pointing out how there is no place where a woman can truly be safe, not in a house of worship, not among friends, not with family members. Far too many people are too invested in maintaining the status quo than finding justice for victims.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God, where the assault happened, after a lot of social media backlash, finally put out a statement acknowledging that Uwa’s rape happened without any concrete steps to challenge the rampant purity culture in churches that creates a breeding ground for rapists.
— RCCG (@rccghq) May 31, 2020
Instead they have closed ranks, dismissing #JusticeForUwa as a distraction, one that should be ignored. This makes them complicit in her death, and affirms what many believe about organized religion in Nigeria. The University of Benin, her alma mater is complicit in her death. It has released a public statement that tries to blame Uwa for ‘associating’ with the wrong people, completely ignoring the reality that if corruption wasn’t rife in their college campus, no student would feel compelled to leave the campus to find a place to read. At least the state government is showing some initiative. The state governor has publicly acknowledged Uwa’s death and started an inquiry towards finding and punishing her rapist/killer.
I have ordered the Nigeria Police Force ( @PoliceNG ) to thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omozuwa, a 100-level student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN). #JusticeForUwa
— Godwin Obaseki (GGO) (@GovernorObaseki) May 31, 2020
Uwa will not die needlessly. We will not allow it.