Yesterday at the office, a senior Barrister walked up to me and sparked a debate with the following question:

“Can a woman institute a legal action using her maiden name?”

The scenario is that the woman is married and changed her name to her husband’s afterwards (at least the surname). She’s currently suing for divorce but uses her maiden name (the name before the marriage) in the legal document, and the opposing counsel insists she cannot do that; hence, the case should be thrown out.

Even though the instance is drawn from a court of law, don’t look at this from that angle. Really, can a woman use her own name after she’s married? The answer is, first of all, yes. Well, that’s because she literally can write whatever she wants pretty much anywhere. If she types her maiden name on the computer and prints it out, it’ll come, right? So that question was faulty on so many levels. First, it should be ‘should she?’ Lawyering isn’t my thing so I’m not even gonna try to answer that. What this debate brings to mind is the level of sexism in our justice system.

Why do we even have to ask that question one-sidedly? Do we have instances of men changing their name to their wives’? If not why? Asking these questions, I realized name change is not mandatory in any constitution. Seriously, why do you have to change your name? You don’t. It’s not compulsory. It’s entirely by choice for you to do that. You’re not compelled to by any law or religion. This is just a practice handed down from generation to generation for absolutely no reason. And now people feel it’s part of some kind of unwritten constitution. It’s not.

This post is not an attempt to discredit whatever tradition you may hold dear. It’s just an announcement that there is no compulsion whatsoever that anyone has to change their name at any point of their life. Knowledge of this will reduce cases and questions on the (in)ability of a woman to institute a divorce proceeding with her birth name. That’s totally sexist.

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