What’s in a name?

While penning his Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare would never have imagined that his famous line,

What’s in a name?

would find space in an acrimonious divorce case and that too, in India.  In a ruling in Feb 2010, the Mumbai High Court directed a divorced woman to stop using her former husband’s name and surname. The HC further clarified: “ex-wife cannot use the husband’s name anywhere, including in her bank account”.

While men fighting divorce cases have been looking at this direction as a victory, it sounds ridiculous to even discuss.

Our social set up forces most women to change to their married name from their maiden name. Why? The plain answer to this is to appear as one family. So the woman becomes part of a family and when there is a divorce she is out of the family and thus, in plain terms, she should change her name back to her maiden name. But does it sound sane? Was marriage just a legal contract? If the legal direction is to leave the married name after divorce, is there any legal direction that the woman should take up the married name in the first place? The answer is NO.

Let’s consider a few situations here:

1. Arti Tripathi got married to Mukul Saxena. She did not change her name . Their kids were Saxenas but the name plate outside the residence did not read — Saxenas and Arti Tripathi. It just read Saxenas. The couple gets divorced and kids custody goes to the wife. After divorce, Arti gets married to say, Ajay Pandey. Now look at the scenario if the couple is travelling abroad — the passengers listed as family are Arti Tripathi, Ajay Pandey and the kids with Saxena as their second name. Can you even imagine the odd look at the Visa counter the group will get?

2. Sameer Jain and Pragati Sharma get married. Pragati’s name is changed and she becomes Pragati Sameer Jain. The couple gets a divorce after 15 years of marriage and the woman changes her name back to Pragati Sharma. 

 3. Sushil Modi and Kavita Rawat get married. Kavita does not change her name and yes, they live the fairytale. Does it make their life any different if the name wasn’t changed?

Contrary to what Indians believe, a change in marital status needs to be notified to the Passport Office/Election/PAN card/and other such bodies, not a change in name. A woman will remain a citizen of the country whether she changes her name after marriage or divorce, or not.

Fact remains, whatever name the woman be — maiden or married — she will remain the same person. So what’s in the name? Why make an issue about it? If she is not legally bound to change it in the first place, why we place a huge stress that it should be changed? Shouldn’t it just be left to the individual what name she wants to keep anyways if the courts have to direct a change? Why pay heed to a society notion which has no respect for your self respect.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. RA
    Jul 04, 2010 @ 15:53:55

    Well said.
    A change in second name is never truly required in documentation. Miss A can be called Mrs B after marriage but she doesn’t have to change her maiden name for records.


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