The truth lies, as usual, somewhere in between.
“I just stood there, holding a pan of boiling water I was going to throw over him.”
Phindi tells her own story. During her childhood she moved around from one relative to another in Soweto while her mother worked as a maid in families where her children were not allowed to live. At the age of 18, Phindi gave birth to a daughter, by a fellow student – “I didn’t know how babies were made” –married, and then divorced the child’s father. She worked in a chemical factory. She met her new husband, a policeman, at church.
He started raping her as soon as they were engaged, and when she told the pastor he quoted the Bible and pointed out that since her fiancé was a policeman he might lose his job if she reported him. And she wouldn’t want that, would she?
She told the pastor he quoted the Bible and pointed out that since her fiancé was a policeman he might lose his job if she reported him.
“I wanted to give my daughter a real family, and no woman in my family had ever managed to keep a husband. But I still wanted to try. I went back to him when I found out I was pregnant. We got married in August 1994. In July the following year I filed for divorce for the first time. I had to do it three times before it finally went through.”
Throughout this time her husband continually beat her, brought other women home and threatened her with his service pistol. With theatrical gestures, the athletic police woman describes the time when her husband and his mistress shut themselves in the bedroom while Phindi went to get a pan of boiling water, determined to pour it over the lovers.
He never touched me after that. I got my divorce in the end, joined the police and now I help abused women and children.
“And then I knocked on the door,” she says with a chuckle. “The water had cooled down by the time they opened it.”
Everyone in the small room laughs, relieved. Phindi describes how she grabbed her husband’s police gun instead, prepared to shoot.
“Then I changed my mind and hit him with the pistol. There was blood everywhere and the girl disappeared. But he never touched me after that. I got my divorce in the end, joined the police and now I help abused women and children. But I didn’t become the first woman in our family to keep a husband,” she says with a touch of sadness.
Maternal deaths: 236 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.3 (2011)
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy depending entirely on the wishes of the woman. Thereafter up to the sixth month of pregnancy if there are special reasons, such as the health of the woman or an abnormality of the foetus. (2007)
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: in 2010 almost 68,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported in a six-month period, most of them rape. It is claimed that almost 28 per cent of the male population have raped a woman or girl. 40 per cent of South African women stated in a report published by the WHO that their first sexual experience took place without their consent.