Why the father’s name is always the surname?

Why the father’s name is always the surname?

The need of current situation in empowering women, treating women with equality and equal rights can be resolved only when the centuries-old Indian patriarchal system is dealt with better laws. Today is it much need that a woman has the right to freedom to choose between her surname after marriage and why the children carry only their father’s surnames. India is plagued with many patriarchal issues mainly towards restricting women to do what they want to. One of biggest issues is the rigid, rotten, and inhuman birth-based caste system. It is believed that education can change the system, but there exist many highly-educated professionals who boast on their family’s achievements rather than their own.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, in his book, Annihilation of Caste has written,

It is common experience that certain names become associated with certain notions and sentiments, which determine a person’s attitude towards men and things. The names Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra are names which are associated with a definite and fixed notion is that of a hierarchy based on birth. So long as these names continue, Hindus will continue to think of the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra as hierarchical divisions of high and low, based on birth and act accordingly. The Hindu must be made to unlearn all this.[1]

Often debated is a patriarchal tradition, as to why the burden of name changing is laid on the shoulders of women alone, when they get married or divorced. Along with several inaccuracies the burden lies only on the part of women to change their names. In India, a huge number of women automatically follow the customs of adopting their husband’s surname. But much has changed after 2007; many have raised debates as to why this patriarchal system must be followed. The feminist theories boasted, standing for equal rights and respect for Women in every field.

The question arises as to how the institution of marriage influence with your surname, why not adhere to the name you was given by your parents. Women have started to realise the fact that love and understanding is more important aspect than the unquestioned traditions widely preferred in India. Therefore, it is important, that the choice be left to the women rather than being an imposition of changing their maiden name and adopting a different surname.

In India, not only are women expected to adopt their husband’s surname automatically, when they get married, but in few communities in Maharashtra they are also expected to change their first names after marriage. As a result, once married the women adapt a completely different identity, like omitting the previous identity and completely subsuming to the one chosen by the husband and his family.

Situation in case of identity

In many instances, professional working women who marry after they have established themselves prefer to be known by their maiden names. There are women who marry in early ages and get established in their professions after marriage. As a result of which their professional identity is based on their married name in case where husband’s surname is adopted. Apart from this, when women get divorced, there is no sense forcing them to revert to their maiden names. The issue is not that whether women adopt their husband’s surnames or not after marriage, but that they have the freedom to decide and the society should not force them to. It is not surprising that only around 3% of divorced women revert to their maiden names after divorce. The primary reason behind this is not because they want to misuse their former position as being married to a particular person, but because it is a troubling process. Often, the women also want to remain connected to their children who have the same surname.

When women get married, they choose or are often compelled to adopt their husband’s surname, they have to apply for changing their names on their National Identification Documents, Passports, Bank Accounts, Driving Licence, Taxation Documents, etc.

It would be simpler for women keep their maiden names whether they marry or not, and whether or not they get divorced. In very conservative societies, such as Iran, women do not change their names after they get married. This is not a radical change as it might sound.

Markers of belonging

In the past, the issue of surnames has been subject of debate in several social movements and on the minds of Feminist organizations and individuals. In late 1970s, many young people who were part of the movement led by Jayaprakash Narayan, chose to drop their surnames as they realised that these identified them as belonging to a particular caste and community. Their primary struggle was against the Institution of Caste, they dropped their surnames. When they got married, their names remained same as before the marriage. Neither the man nor the woman had to worry about a surname. This led to many debates as a sin to the patriarchal traditions and thoughts. In South India in any case the issue of surnames often does not arise as people use initials.

The Need for Change:

Almost all over the globe, nations have normalised and legalised the idea of two parts in a name, i.e. first name and last name (often termed surname). Practically, it is impossible to change this practice. Our governments cannot stop asking for our surnames for Identification Documents, Taxation Documents, Voter Identification, Driver’s Licences, etc.

But the government should enact a law, which shall make the official usage of our surnames redundant. No pressure of the patriarchal traditions on women would result in Equality for women to choose for what women want.

This won’t eradicate Casteism in Indian society. We cannot eradicate casteism and gender inequality by giving up the choice to choose our surnames. But if we are able to reduce it by some percentage, it would be worth it. Every generation should do their part in eradicating old social evils prevailing in our society.

“The views of the authors are personal



Pranay Maheshwari
Thank you so much for reading. Imagining a planet without adequate environment, inequality amongst religions, sex & societies, discrimination being played at a mass level etc., writing about legal, environmental & social aspects has become a part of me. Every time I write an Article about issues relating to Women in Today’s Society, Environment and Rights of the Citizens, it brings out so much positivity in people’s nature. My writing allowed me to fix all of my previous regrets and to properly add noted case studies, laws and aspects, giving it a much better impact and reader experience.