Why do I have to change my surname now that I’m married?

My name is my identity. It’s who I’ve been for the 20-30 years before marriage. And it needn’t change just beacuse I got married. I had more reasons than others to keep my maiden name. I was in academia and all my publications were linked to my maiden name. And I used that as an excuse almost. I could’ve just stood up for myself. In any case, this topic has always been the favourite for debates, a morsel for feminism and the talks will continue long after this post and others like this. Many people feel the need to change their name just so that the whole family has the same last name (especially when kids are in the picture). I’ve debated this however, with a variety of people.

And that’s why this article by Prachi Khare on Womens Web struck a chord with me. Here’s what she’s said 

Like most other girls preparing to tie the knot, I also debated with myself, while doing the wedding preps, if I should change by last name post-marriage. After putting in a lot of thought behind this and taking a lawyer’s opinion, I decided that I shall stick to my maiden name post-marriage.

The reason was simple. My maiden name was my identity for more than 25 years and I did not have the heart to adopt a new identity at this stage in my life.

My lawyer advised that in case I decide to change my last name, I would need to execute an affidavit of the change and would need to provide the affidavit wherever I submit documents with my maiden name on them, like all education certificates, PAN card, driving licence etc.

Alternatively, I could retain my maiden name and provide a copy of our marriage certificate whenever I needed to prove my marital status – e.g. visa, address proof work related, etc. Now, if I have to submit an additional document whether or not I change my name, I would obviously, choose to keep my name unchanged.

The decision was taken to retain my maiden name and my husband was in favour of the same more than I was. My husband lived in the USA at the time we got married and my visa formalities as well as joint bank account opening formalities went pretty smoothly. No eyes or eyebrows or fingers were raised!

A point to note here is that women do change their surnames post marriage in all parts of the world (but it is a completely personal choice). However, last year, when we moved back to India, I noticed, every time I spelt out my surname (which is different from my husband’s), people raise brows. It gets to me but I let it pass.

Recently I went to a bank to open a ‘single’ account in my name. I submitted all required documents relating to my identity as well as address (which have my maiden name on them). Despite every document being in order, I was asked to submit a declaration that I was married but I have chosen to retain my maiden name, along with a reason for this decision!

I said it is a personal choice but was advised that it was not an acceptable reason, though all my documents and certificates were in my maiden name. The Customer Service Manager (I have nothing against her as she was merely following procedure) asked me to declare that I retained my maiden name for tax filing purposes. I needed to open this account and hence, submitted the declaration but I still fail to understand why I was made to submit it!

Since it is not a compulsion for women to change their surname post wedding, I fail to fathom why question them when they don’t? Why does my identity need to change just because I am married? I have nothing against people who believe that women should change their surname post marriage but I believe that this is a personal choice and should not be forced onto someone.

Such related incidents in the past few months have raised a very important question in my mind, “why can’t we, as a society, let people make their own decisions and not be judgmental about such choices?”

This article first appeared on www.womensweb.in 

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