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About Rape

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Can rape happen within marriage?

If your husband forces you to have sex with him, it is rape. Your husband may wrongly believe that you, his wife, are his “property”. Your husband may be in strict control of finances and major decision-making and believe that as head of the house he is entitled to have sex, even if it is forced.

A sexual relationship is part of a marriage or any caring, loving partnership, but must be negotiated to be pleasing, gratifying and fulfilling to you both. A marriage or any other relationship, previous or existing, according to South African law, is not a defence to the charge of rape.

These are the words of rape survivor Charlene Smith, which first appeared in an article she wrote for the Mail & Guardian in November 1999, shortly before the trial started of the man who raped her:

Sex is about self-control. It is about finding the little keys that turn a partner on, it is about creating desire, it is about holding back one’s own desires to please a partner, confident in the belief that he or she will do the same for you, until both achieve mutual satisfaction – and desires.

Sex is the most gentle of sharings, mutual pleasure, and awareness of the self and the other, it is a gift of trust and the fulfilment of self worth.

Sex is about mutual respect.

This underpins that we not only need to talk about rape, but we need to talk about sex – the pleasure, the passion, the love that exists between you and another person you care about – to understand that rape is something entirely different – a crime of violence driven by hate and anger.

  • Proud of me – Speaking out against Sexual Violence and HIV, by Charlene Smith, Penguin Books, 2001

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