Many African proverbs that are used to define relationships between men and women,
specifically the marital relationship, seem to be gender biased and focus more on women.
In this study, women’s narratives relating to abuse under the guise of culture and language
use were explored using hermeneutic phenomenology. Language is at the core of the
description and interpretation of reality to produce meanings and to understand people’s
lives. Therefore, societal expectations are instilled in members of a society through
language as part of their socialisation process. The study sample consisted of women
who had received premarital counselling and who lived in the cities of Tshwane and
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa. Five individual and eight focus-group interviews
were conducted with 57 participants. Colaizzi’s methods of data analysis were used and
the findings revealed that vernacular proverb songs were used to reinforce the expectation
that women in general and married women in particular had to play a submissive role.