KAMPALA – A few days ago, a lady friend asked me if there was anything wrong with her making her will that she should be buried next to her father as she was not liked by her husband’s relatives.
Well getting down to carry out some research, I realized that a silent debate was already gaining momentum on the subject matter among women activists.
Many have been wondering why the reverse is not true; in as why shouldn’t a woman have the right to decide where she should be buried or where she should bury her husband.
Well, a recent decision in the High Court of Uganda has opened a Pandora box giving women the right to bury their deceased husbands where they wished.
Even before that decision, a wife to my late friend Bob Kasango who before his demised hailed from the east was buried in Fort Portal against the wish of her in laws.
But who invented the thinking that a woman should be buried next her husband or vice versa. I think the answer lies in our diverse cultures that were so mean to women and looked at them as part of a man’s property especially after paying brideprice.
It was therefore assumed that she ceased being a member of her parent’s family upon marriage and would only go back to her parents as a visitor. Even divorce required the woman to return the much revered downy which the woman’s parents were not willing to surrender. So the woman had to endure an abusive marriage for fear of humiliating her parents.
If her husband died, she would be inherited by somebody from her husband’s relatives, after all she was their property and if she died first, she would be buried at her husband’s side without the need to consult her parents.
This thinking is also attributed to the bible in the covenant between Adam and Eve which is summarized in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh meaning you cannot burry them separately but this does not answer the question where. Must the burial place be her husband side or that of the woman, this is the import of till death do us part.
No wonder Religious leaders in Uganda recently criticized Pastor Aloysius Bugingo of the Makerere based House of Prayer Ministries International for saying Christian marriage vow ‘Till death do us part’ made in church is not anywhere in the Holy Bible as unbiblical and satanic.
Why should a man single handily decide where to bury his wife if she does first and why should his relatives insist that she must be buried next to her husband if she dies later? Similarly, 1 Cor. 7:10 says, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord), the wife should not separate from her husband.” Verse 11 also states clearly, “and let not the husband put away his wife. To say the least, these scriptures seem to say one think, these principles only apply when both are still alive.
Another misconception appears in Matthew 19:6, “so they are no longer two, but one flesh”. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Some people have gone ahead to think that this scripture also applies at death, many think they should be buried in the same place, I beg to differ.
Many forget that the same bible says “until death do us part” meaning that death should be the only thing that will separate the married couple. I wish to state that these scriptures all refer to death in the context of marriage meaning that the moment one of them dies or both, that bond is broken. You therefore cannot insist that the surviving partner should be buried next to his wife or her husband just because the two were once married.
The origin of the phrase “until death do us part” is uniquely Christian and dates back to 1549 where it is found in “The Book of Common Prayer.” The original phrase was slightly different and read “till death us depart.” The phrase was only modified to serve the interests of modernity.
It is one of the most famous, and most used, phrases, still spoken frequently by couples making their marriage vows four times in every church wedding – twice by the priest and repeated once each by the bride and the groom. It is part of the marriage service in The Book of Common Prayer, where the couple swears that they will love each other through thick and thin and stay together until death separates them.
Today, personalized wedding vows are becoming more and more popular, with couples wanting to pay tribute to their unique relationship using their own words instead of something that’s been said before (and maybe impress their guests in the process). But plenty of people still use traditional vows either in whole, in part, or adapting some portion of them. Standard wedding vows have also given us some of our most memorable pop culture moment.
In the developed countries, the traditional Catholic wedding ceremony finds many couples (regardless of how religious they really are in their day-to-day lives) reciting the time-honored spiel up at the altar.
Though there are several variations, a standard version goes like this: “To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” The whole beginning “I’ll love you despite what crap life might throw our way” bit all sounds well and good, but the last “until death” portion understandably gives people some pause especially since divorce is a perfectly acceptable thing that ends plenty of modern marriages.
So, what’s up with this “until death do us part” business? It probably won’t surprise you that that part of the traditional vows find their origin in the bible. Despite the minor changes in wording, the meaning in the vow is clear only death (in other words, the interference of God himself) can end a marriage.
It’s considered a lifelong commitment, with the marriage pact only able to be broken in death. That’s made blatantly clear in Romans 7, which states “….a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from that imaginary string that binds her to him.
To this day, the Catholic Church does not recoginise divorce, citing Jesus in Matthew 19 saying that having other relationships after a divorce (except in the case of “sexual immorality”) is always adultery: “‘Haven’t you read,’ Jesus replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.'” In this sense, God is basically the third “person” in the marriage, and the only person authorized to undo it and how does he do it, God kills (as opposed to take) one of them or both.
Many Christians are more comfortable saying God has taken, but how does he take, he stops somebody from breathing and that is nothing other than killing. One of these says, lets us call a spade a spade and say, God has killed so and so instead of saying God has called him or her.
Alright, to answer the feminists, the bible has already settled your debate; it is the woman who owns the man (whether alive or dead) when the two get married. Let us dissect the scripture together, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
It is the man who leaves his parents and gets united to his wife, the reverse is not true, the woman remains with her parents, the man therefore becomes hers in life and in death. She therefore reserves the right to determine where he must be buried, that is the price we pay for copying the white man for whom the bible was made.
In the case of Njoroge v Njoroge & Another (2004)1KLR which has been quoted in every case relating to such a dispute, Justice Ojwang opined that marital status was more relevant to burial and that ‘it was the marriage regime rather than the succession regime that should prevail in determining questions of burial, where to bury and who to bury.
I wish to refer to those whose cultural arguments favour the man deciding where to bury his wife to read the Kenyan case of S.M. Otieno, whose death and burial gave rise to a significant legal controversy regarding the tension between customary and common law in Kenya. Otieno’s wife had argued that he should be buried on their farm which plan was challenged by the deceased’s brother.
The Court of Appeals ruled that when there was conflict between common law and customary law, the later is given precedent. They declared that the courts of Kenya are guided by African customary law, provided that such laws are “not repugnant to justice and morality.” Since there was no specific law on the subject matter, Otieno was eventually buried at his ancestral home to the detriment of his wife.
The question as to whether a wife whose husband dies before her had the first right and duty to decide on his husband’s burial, courts seem to have diverged from the reasoning in the Otieno case. In a recent case in Uganda, the Honourable Justice Alice Komuhangi Khauka ruled that upon marriage, men and women are expected to live independently and exclusively of any other persons, including their parents.
The ruling stems from a dispute between the family of the late Christopher Mayanja Kyobe and his widow, Aida Namalwa, on where he should be buried. Kyobe’s relatives wanted him buried at his ancestral home at Bamunanika in Luweero district, while his widow wanted him buried at the couple’s home in Mukono district.
Rogers Wadada is a Human Rights Activist and Politician