A high court judge in Lesotho has found a husband ‘unworthy’ to bury his wife, because the evidence indicated that he had ‘brutalised her in what was plainly a ‘callous act of domestic violence’. Her birth family had asked that they be allowed to bury her instead, a move strongly opposed by the husband, charged with her murder and out on bail. He claimed that, as the heir, he had the right to bury her. Finding the husband responsible for the woman’s death, Judge Moroke Mokhesi said such behaviour offended public policy the world over.
What does the 17thC legal writer Johannes Voet have to do with a dispute in modern-day Lesotho? Quite a lot, as it turns out. For it was Voet who wrote about the principles that must apply when deciding who has the ‘right’ to bury a deceased person, and Judge Moroke Mokhesi of the high court in Lesotho quoted that author to explain that a woman’s blood relatives had every right to ask for the right to bury her.