“Does marital rape exist?” Gelles (1987) asked this question in the early days when the judicial system started grappling with the matter. Prior to this legal debate, the sexual conduct of the husband towards his wife had not been treated as a crime, no matter how violent it could be. As Peacock states “the antiquated laws exempted a husband from charges of raping his wife” (1998: 226). However, the Rideout case in 1978 (cf. Russell 1982) brought much needed awareness to the issue of marital rape, thereby enabling all sectors of the social structure to publicly debate the merits and demerits of the spousal exemption law. Ever since then, many scholars in the legal, sociological, psychological and other sectors have produced well-researched documents that answer Gelles‟ question beyond doubt that marital rape does exist. 'Spousal exemption'1 came under rigorous revision in many countries as scholars and feminist organizations started to ask questions about this violation of the rights of women. Having said that, one may wonder what purpose this research study will then serve. The author would like to make it clear that the question was asked in the Western context. For the West, it has been a clearly defined matter that marital rape is a criminal offence. However, the question still needs to be asked in the African context. This study has been undertaken to explore the painful and traumatic experiences of Indigenous African (Black) married women who experience repeated sexual violence from their husbands. In the cause of the author's work as a minister in the Black Pentecostal church, I have come across women who have challenged my pastoral care praxis with their selfless giving to the church and community yet they have to live with terrible pain, shame and degradation in their homes because of the way their husbands treat them sexually. These women bear their lot with such courage and they have made me feel that we as ministers are not doing enough to lighten their burden. This study seeks to present the African community with well-researched evidence that African women are also crying out for liberation from the pain of marital rape. This study echoes Gelles' question ”does marital rape exist?” from an African pastoral perspective. Copyright
Dissertation (MA(Theol))--University of Pretoria, 2013.