14 Things Indian Women Hear When They Don’t Change Their Name after Marriage
I didn't change my name after marriage and the things I have heard make me think we're back in the 19th century. It may be 2016 but I still have to justify, whether offhandedly in a conversation or in a fiery debate, why I didn't take my husband's surname after marriage. There are several reasons to not do it but the biggest one, and the most ignored, is personal choice. A woman who wants to retain her identity is often questioned by people in various capacities. It may be a relative, who you would expect this from, or a bank official, who just cannot fathom how you have not completely altered your identity after getting married. No one questions the husband because that's the norm. Nothing is supposed to change for him, the woman is supposed to adapt to him, which includes making his name a part of her identity.
In the little over a year of being married, I have heard some sexist, backward bullshit that should have no place in 21st century India, but sadly still does. If you're planning to get married soon and won't change your name, here are some of the things you should be prepared to hear.
“People will add Mrs to your maiden name if you don't change your name. How is that okay?”
Firstly, it's not my maiden name, it's my name. Despite explaining this repeatedly, I still have to deal with people calling me Mrs Waraich and making it look like my mistake when I correct them. The assumption that all married women must have the prefix of Mrs is just as troubling as any other regressive social norm. I still use Miss wherever I go and will continue to do so till whenever I want. Why should my marital status change that?
“Write the name on your passport, not your new name.”
Repeated explanations that the name on my passport is still my name and will remain my name were met with dismissal. So be prepared for a “oh kids these days” type of reaction. The aforementioned bank official, for whom different surnames is a thing from another planet, went so far as to assume that my religion would have now changed to follow my husband.
“You won't be able to travel abroad together. No one will give you a visa.”
Because no one ever travels with their partner without marrying them first.
“Every time you have to travel with your husband, you'll need a no-objection certificate from your father. That's the law, you know.”
This was from a travel agent, a person who should know at least the basics of travelling abroad to advise his customers. But, far from that, he seemed to be completely unaware that single adult women travel abroad without a no-objection certificate all the time.
“We need to see your marriage certificate to give you a room in our hotel.”
This regressive objection is passed off in many hotels in India as “standard security procedure.” Identity proof of both occupants isn't enough for them, you must carry a document which you will need to produce randomly. Thankfully, there are exceptions to this absurd “rule.”
“You won't get accommodation in any hotel, in India or abroad.”
Going by their experience in some of these hotels, which are not following any stated law of denying accommodation to unmarried couples, people assume that this is the standard rule in all hotels across the world. News flash: Most hotels in the world don't care unless you're indulging in criminal activities on their premises.
“You can't register your marriage under your maiden name.”
Let's ask the registrar, shall we? And the countless number of people who have registered their marriage without changing their names.
“Your kids won't see you as one family. What surname will they get?”
Both, perhaps, or none. That's a decision for the parents of the kids to make.
“Your brother is there to carry on the family name. Why do you have to bother?”
There are way too many things wrong with this one. I chose to keep my name regardless of my siblings. Apart from that, if a woman does choose to not change her name after marriage, it doesn't always have to do with “carrying on the family name.” Anyone heard of this magical thing called personal choice?
“The process to change your name is so simple now. Everything happens online. Why wouldn't you do it?”
This one is a real classic. Some people are genuinely curious when they ask this question because they don't know any other way, and we don't hold that against them. It's only a matter of a few minutes to explain that it is not legally required for a woman to change her name after marriage. However, there are some who are just being pricks when they ask this question. Ignore them and move on.
“Don't you want to be a part of the family?”
If names made families, half of India would be one big Sharma family.
“What do you have against his name? Don't you like it?”
I have heard this one in various forms – as an accusation stated above and as a cheeky remark from know-it-alls. “We know why you don't want to change your name. If I had a name as exotic as yours, I wouldn't change mine either” is something I have heard more than often than I can recall. Not liking your partner's last name is a valid reason for not taking it but it is hardly ever the only one. Grow up, people.
“Stop trying to be a part of the cool brigade.”
Most people think that you're trying to conform to some sort of rebellion by not following social norms. For me, it was a moment of panic, when I felt myself being ripped away from everything familiar. It was then that I knew that I wouldn't change my name, for no other reason but just to keep what's mine.
“Are you even committed to the marriage or are you just preparing for divorce?”
We don't know what degree of pent-up anger fuels the need to ask this question. Some women have faced it from their husbands while some others have heard it from relatives. For those husbands and relatives, let us state this once and for all. A woman's name has nothing to do with her commitment to the relationship. She is not your property to be rebranded as yours once the transaction is complete. She married you but never agreed to change who she is. Deal with it.
Because it may be 2016 but there are many, many battles to be won for women in India.