A Father’s Vow

“If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” – Judges 11:30, 31

I read this story again today and it filled me with sadness.  Jephthah was a mighty man of valor but was driven out of his home by his step-brothers because his mother was a harlot. He went to the land of Tob where he fell into the company of worthless men he went raiding with.

When the nation of Amnon made war against Israel, the elders of the Israelite people went to Jephthah for help.  He reminded them of how they had treated him and wanted to know why they were now seeking his help.  They promised him that if he would fight for them, they would make him their head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.  Jephthah agreed.  He went with them and they made him their head and commander.  Before he went to war, Jephthah gave the king of Ammon the opportunity to call a truce but he refused to listen.

God’s Spirit was upon Jephthah as he advanced toward the people of Ammon.  It was at this time that he made a vow to the Lord.   The Lord delivered the people of Ammon into his hands.  When he returned home after his great victory, his daughter came to meet him, happy to see him and and he was devastated.  He had made a vow to the Lord that whatever came out of his house to meet him when he returned from fighting the Ammonites, will be the Lord’s.  It never occurred to him that his daughter, his only child, would be the one to come out to meet him.

When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”

So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”  She had accepted her fate.

For two months she and her friends bewailed her virginity on the mountains.  And at the end of the two months, she returned to her father and he honored his vow to the Lord.  She never knew a man.  She remained a virgin until she died.  Jephthah never had any grandchildren.

How sad it must have been for this young girl who like most girls dreamed of one day falling in love and getting married.  She would never know the joy of being a wife and a mother.  If a man showed any interest in her she would have to reject him.  How it must have been hard to see her friends get married and have children.  She may have held some of those children in her arms, knowing that she would never be able to have any of her own.  It is said that it became a custom in Israel for the daughters of Israel to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite for four days each year.

I can’t imagine how her father must have felt, seeing his only child live the rest of her life a spinster because of a foolish vow he had made.  The vow as not even necessary.  The Spirit of the Lord was with him.  God would have given him the victory anyway.  What should have been a celebration for father and daughter turned into a tragedy.  His victory came at a great cost because of a vow he had made in order to guarantee that victory.

Be careful when you made a vow to the Lord or anyone.  Consider what you are doing first.  Make sure you can live with your decision.  Don’t make promises that you may regret keeping.

If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth – Numbers 30:2.

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Morocco to change Rape Law

Imagine being forced to marry the man who raped you?  This was the horrible reality 16 year Amina Filali faced.  This drove Amina to take her own life.

In a variety of cultures, marriage after the fact has been treated historically as a “resolution” to the rape of an unmarried woman. Citing Biblical injunctions (particularly Exodus 22:16–17 and Deuteronomy 22:25–29), Calvinist Geneva permitted a single woman’s father to consent to her marriage to her rapist, after which the husband would have no right to divorce; the woman had no explicitly stated separate right to refuse. Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim.

There are two accounts of rape in the Bible that I will address here.  The first was of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob.  The man who raped her was Shechem.  We learn what happened in Genesis 34:

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  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. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

Shechem raped Dinah and then he wanted to marry her.  Dinah’s brothers were livid.  “The men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.”  Shechem’s father Hamor pleaded on his son’s behalf, asking Jacob to give Dinah to him as a wife.  And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves.   So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”  Surely Hamor was aware of what his son had done.  Wasn’t he disgraced by it?  Did he think that his son marrying the woman he raped would excuse what he had done?  And what about Dinah?  How would she have felt marrying the man who raped her?  Suffice to say, the marriage didn’t go through. Two of Dinah’s brothers killed Shechem, his father and all of the men in the city. We don’t hear about Dinah after this terrible chapter in her life but it is safe to say that she never got married.

Tamar was the daughter of King David.  Her half-brother Amnon lusted after her to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep.  Finally, unable to bear it any longer, he dismissed all of the servants and got Tamar to come to his room on the pretense that he was ill.  She trustingly entered his room with the cakes she had made for him.  He took hold of her and he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”

But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her (2 Samuel 13:1-14).  After he raped her, Amnon chased her away even though she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” He had the servant throw her out and bolt the door.  Tamar was a virgin.  She went away crying bitterly.  She remained at her brother Absalom’s house.  Tamar didn’t go to her father to report what had happened.  And we can see why.  We learn that although King David was angry when he heard what Amnon had done to his half-sister, he did nothing.  Amnon was not punished for his crime.  Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged his sister by murdering her rapist.

Rapists should not be allowed to marry their victims so that they could avoid jail time.  They committed a crime and should be punished according the law.  Victims should not be forced to marry the men who violated them.  What psychological damage could that do to a woman, especially a young woman like Amina?  She was forced to marry her rapist.  Such an arrangement was  unbearable for her.  After seven months of marriage, she saw no other way out except death.  Death was more preferable than staying married to Moustapha Fellak whom she accused of physical abuse.  It is a terrible shame that this young girl had to die in order for the Moroccan justice ministry to support a proposal to change the penal code.

Let us hope that other young girls will be saved from the same fate as Amina.  This is not just a women’s issue–it is human rights’ issue.  Everyone has a right to quality of life and to be protected from violent crimes.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.  Those who commit rape should be arrested, charged and sentenced.

It is sad that we live in a world where an unwed girl or woman who has lost her virginity is considered to have dishonored her family and deemed no longer suitable for marriage.  It doesn’t matter that she was raped.  Some families believe that marrying the rapist is the best alternative.  According to a BBC News, Amina’s mother told the Associated Press,  “I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.”  It’s times like these when I am thankful that I am not a part of a culture where a young girl or woman doesn’t have the right to refuse to marry the man who raped her.  Keeping the family honor in tact even if it means that the guilty party will be a part of that family is more important than their daughter’s wellbeing.

Let’s continue to hope and pray that Morocco will change the law allowing rape marriages and to curb violence against women.  It’s time to take action, Morocco and prevent more  tragedies like the suicide of Amina.  It’s time for parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry their rapists out of fear they won’t be able to find husbands if it is known they were raped.   It’s time to protect the victims and stop allowing rapists to escape prosecution.  It’s time to rewrite the entire penal code to stop violence against women.  It’s time for change.

Open quoteIn Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual.Close quote

  • FOUZIA ASSOULI,
  • president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, on the suicide of a Moroccan teenager who was reportedly forced to marry her rapist

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,2109097,00.html #ixzz2Mbyfl700

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Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21169923; http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/02/04/after-girls-death-morocco-will-change-rape-laws/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape; http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/morocco-to-change-law-allowing-rape-marriage_824656.html; http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/News-and-Views/morocco-amina-filali-rape-survivor-commits-suicide-after-forced-marriage-rapist

Hymen Reconstruction

This week on the Ricki Lake Show, I learned about women having their hymen reconstructed.  I never knew such a thing existed.  Check out this clip from the show.

Melody Meozzi, an Iranian-American Muslim writer and attorney, is a staunch opponent of hymen reconstruction.  She believes that it further contributes to violence against women.  She goes head to head with with Dr. Robert Moore, an internationally recognized Laparoscopic and Vaginal Reconstructive Surgeon who has operated on patients from all over the US and the world.

Hymen Repair Surgery, termed as Hymenoplasty is a simple surgery to restore virginity of women owing to the religious, cultural and ethnic reasons. The surgery repairs the hymen after it has been ruptured during sexual assault, agreed intercourse, sports, falls or insertion of tampons.

The Hymen Restoration Surgery takes up to 30 minutes to an hour. The surgery is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. It involves stitching of the edges of the remaining hymen together. Soon after this the hymen heals and the ruptured hymen grows back to a hymen similar to one in virgin girls. With hymen restoration, vaginal walls also tighten up.

Such procedures are not generally regarded as part of mainstream gynecology, but are available from some plastic surgery centers, particularly in the USA, Japan and Western Europe, generally as day surgery. The normal aim is to cause bleeding during post-nuptialintercourse, which in some cultures is considered proof of virginity.

I came across an article on the BBC News website about women in Asia and the Arab world who risk being ostracized or death because they had sex outside of marriage.  Many of them are undergoing surgery to reconnect their hymen so that there is blood on the sheets on their wedding night.  Others have committed suicide because of the unbearable pressure and the fear of being found out.  Read their stories.

Hymen reconstruction surgery is performed in China as sexually active Chinese women are pressured by their new husbands.  This procedure is also done in Canada.  There were lots of websites promoting hymen repair, reconstruction.  There was even a website called Hymen shop where they sell artificial hymen.

There is so much information out there about hymen reconstruction.  If you or someone you know is considering this procedure, educate yourself first.  Seek counselling.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into having the surgery.  This decision is yours alone.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymenorrhaphy; http://www.weirdasianews.com/2010/09/14/hymen-reconstruction-surgery-price-virginity/; http://www.indicure.com/articles/hymenoplasty-procedure-outcomes-cost-hymen-restoration-surgery-in-top-hospitals-clinics-in-india.html; http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/hymen-reconstruction-doesnt-work;