What’s in a Name! The Surname Should Not be Restricted to the Father’s Side Alone!

  • The modern society is slowly but steadily veering toward an altered outlook from the hitherto dominating patriarchal viewpoints that sustained for so long. The primacy being accorded to male species from the times immemorial is gradually witnessing a welcome change wherein the females too are finally being able to come into some sort of prominence. No longer the long-held male bastions are taboo to females anymore as the latter increasingly leave behind an indelible footprint showing they are second to none. Efforts at provisioning level-playing fields, equality, unbiased treatment, and equal opportunities for females are finally bearing fruits all around. Of course, such a scenario was inevitable and is heartening to note that it is finally happening.

PC: Chitrali Ghatak

  • Extending equality to both genders in the still deeply patriarchal society on certain delicate and sensitive issues is easier said than done though. Take, for instance, the surname of any newborn, either boy or girl. The norm is to name the child with a surname representing the father’s side of the family. Somebody said what’s in a name. Remember, it can carry a whole worldview, which in turn can shape material reality in powerful ways. As mentioned above, specifically, patrilineal surnaming norms carry a wide-ranging patriarchal dividend, where fathers dominate family decision-making while mothers sacrifice their jobs to do the unpaid labor of housework and childcare. And the next generation is trained to repeat this cycle on a perpetual basis.
  • In an interesting turn of events, a ruling by Italy’s top court last week has made a path-breaking ruling which found the automatic imparting of the father’s name to children constitutionally illegitimate. Now, this is one ruling which should send welcome reverberations across the universe and especially to those women and voices fighting for the upholding of gender equality. In fact, one Italian MP has noted in appreciation that the mother’s name henceforth getting the same dignity as the father is a sign of civilization. Such thinking is truly welcome and must be followed elsewhere as well without an exception. The ruling recognizes the surname as a fundamental element of one’s personal identity and emphasizes both parents having equal say in the choice of this surname.


  • Most welcomingly, options of the child carrying the mother’s surname alone or both parent’s surnames with the mothers coming first are now on the table too. Indeed, it is this choice, and the principle of equality underpinning it, that is the mark of civilization. The Indian society too has undergone some palpable and long-reaching changes in recent years have witnessed rules being amended to allow the mother’s name as a valid identity marker for documents ranging from PAN cards to passports. However, even when this option is theoretically available, practically it can still be an ordeal for many pursuing the same. Mind you, patrilineality in naming continues to mirror the deeply unequal allocation of roles to women and men. This trend should change.