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Maiden names: do they matter?

Ruchi feels a woman’s identity goes along with that of her family

A new study conducted through Facebook by researchers from the University of York says more women now prefer to retain their maiden names after marriage. However many women still feel compelled by society to change their surnames as a mark of respect towards the new family as well as her husband. Women Talk Online blogger Debarati Mukherjee speaks to few women and finds more about the trend.

My passport needed to be renewed, so I decided to put in my spouse’s name to make my passport a complete proof of identity including all my details. I was reluctant to use my husband’s surname and give up my existing identity with it, so I put in a request for all the changes I needed, other than my surname.

To my dismay, the passport sanctioning officer asked me to change my name. Since I did not wish to do it, I had to speak to her on legal terms and furnish her with a self-certified document mentioning that I would like to hold on to my maiden name even after marriage. My reasons for carrying my surname do not involve my feminist attitude or beliefs. I did not want to change my name because I am using it since the last 25 years of my life and changing it all of a sudden means loosing all my identity in one go.

Arpita found changing her surname a challenging problem

However Ruchi has her own justifications for the change of her surname from Ruchi Anand to Ruchi Kohli. She says, “A girl’s identity always lies with her family. When she is born, she carries her father’s surname and after marriage, she carries her husband’s name. This is how the system of nomenclature has functioned in our society for several generations and I do not regret being a part of it. For me it is a pleasure to be known by my husband’s surname. I think the identity of a person is just not restricted to her name, it is on the kind of work she does, her attitude towards all and her personality as a whole. How many of us know the Mother Teresa’s real name? We all know her by her first name and her benevolence. I do not agree with people who feel that changing one’s surname will change their identity.”

Manju:Women do not need to adopt their husbands’ surnames

For 26-year-old Arpita Halder Bharadwaj, a journalist by profession, changing her name after marriage was not a very happy affair. She relates, “From the very beginning I was not convinced with the culture of changing surnames after a woman got married. In my case I was not very happy to get my surname changed as I have been living with my name, Arpita Halder, since birth. It was hard to digest the fact that the happiest event of my life would change my identity. The only question that comes to my mind is that why do only women have to change their surname?” She further adds, “ I have changed my surname officially but I was not very happy. I felt that I have been robbed of my identity in the name of culture. Initially it was difficult for me to accept this fact but with every passing day I am getting used to it when people address me as Mrs. Bhardwaj instead of Miss Halder.”

However 55-year-old bank professional Manju Mukherjee opines that change should never have been a mandatory thing. “Earlier in our times, every woman had to change her surname post marriage to get all her rights, regardless of the fact as to whether she was employed or a housewife. But personally I believe, when a woman is at par with her husband in all respects, she does not need to follow his surname to get recognized in society. Today’s women have achieved excellence in all fields; hence the government too supports this decision of theirs to continue with their maiden names. Moreover, when the kids of these mothers grow up, they get an opportunity to understand that their mothers are no less than their fathers.”

The study however mentioned that most women who changed their surnames did it because they were worried regarding the future surname of their children. The research showed as many as 62 percent of married women in their twenties took on their spouse’s surname while 74 percent did in their thirties and 88 percent did it in their sixties.

Author: Debarati Mukherjee

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


02.08.2013 | 13:12