Turkey: Women Can Finally Choose to Keep Maiden Name After Marriage








The decision to change your last name once you get married is an option in many countries. Usually the woman will take the man’s last name, which is a practice based on tradition, but lately it seems that more women are choosing to keep their maiden names. Also, there have been instances where men have taken their wives’ last names. In these countries, whatever couples choose to do is not an issue but some other countries do not give this choice equally to both men and women. One specific case that was ruled on by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) involved Turkey and its law that requires women to take their husband’s surnames for use in official documents.

In Leventoğlu Abdulkadiroğlu v. Turkey, the applicant, Bahar Leventoğlu Abdulkadiroğlu simply wanted to keep her surname because she was known by it in her professional career but the Turkish government would not allow it. Bahar then filed an application with the ECtHR in 2007 claiming that the law violated Article 8 of the Declaration of Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) in conjunction with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) because it discriminated on the basis of sex by forcing women to change their surname after marriage while the men did not.

Finally, this past May, the ECtHR made its decision. It found for Bahar in that the Civil Code amounted to a difference in treatment based on sex. The Turkish government tried to argue that giving the family the husband’s surname was based on tradition and “designed to reflect family unity” but this argument falls short because family unity can still be preserved with the wife’s surname or a joint name or a made up last name agreed on by the couple.

I find this whole situation a little annoying because it seems like a huge waste of time and resources on all the parties involved and the ECtHR. What is the big deal if she wants to keep her maiden name? I am sure Turkey has other more pressing matters to deal with like the current union strikes that are ruining parts of the country then to worry about Bahar’s last name.

What do you think about the tradition of wives taking their husbands’ last names? What do you plan to do when you get married? What do you think other countries with similar laws will do or should do?



Photo Source: Guardian UK

One comment

  1. It is unbelievable that countries still have laws like this on the books. Although a law such as this might not seem as grave as other violations enumerated in the Declaration of Human Rights, it is certainly, or can be just as demeaning to women. This case is demonstrative of the growing role of women in Turkish society. It shows that as women are becoming more prominent and independent, and that traditions don’t as readily fit their professional needs. In order to maintain their professional networks and reputations they should be able to do something as simple as maintain their last name. This type of freedom is something that is taken for granted in the United States because it’s a given that we have the ability to choose whatever we want when it comes to a name following marriage. From this ruling it is clear that other countries who have the same law on the books are violating the Declaration of Human Rights and hopefully other petitioners will follow suit and attempt to dissolve of those discriminatory laws. It is clear that the argument that this type of discrimination promotes “family unity” is without merit and would likely fail again if brought before any humanitarian court.

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