It is not uncommon for an Indian woman to change her last name after marriage. This is because of the perception that has existed since centuries, and that is, that a girl, before her marriage is economically dependent on her father and after, is dependent on her husband for all her financial needs. Despite the humongous amount of diversity that exists in our nation, this is one norm that can safely be said to be common across communities, castes, classes and religions. Because such a huge percentage of India’s population changes its name at a certain point in life, it isn’t surprising that the government of India has even created a portal for name change online.
This blog seeks to enumerate all the possible reasons for why such a significant part of the population prefers to change its name after marriage. However, it might be more appropriate in this situation to use the term, ‘women’, instead of, ‘Indians’. This is because more women than men change their names post marriage.
Why women change their names after marriage
There are some communities in India, which, as per the traditional customs, require women to change even their first names after marriage. In many other cases, women, who are not willing to drop their maiden names, retain their maiden surname. But, as a reflection of the love and respect they have for their better halves, they also take up the surname of their husband. A lot of members from the entertainment industry of India have preferred this option, instead of completely having to give up their maiden last names. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Kareena Kapoor Khan are just some of such instances.
Apart from these, there might also be women who have married a man belonging to a different religion. For instance, if a Hindu woman marries a Muslim man, sharia law requires her to first convert her religion to Islam. However, when she applies for a change of religion, the concerned authorities are also going to have her name changed, since there needs to be made a special application for exemption if a person, who has converted his religion, wishes to retain his or her name which might make be indicative of the person’s erstwhile religion.
Reasons why men change their names
Notwithstanding the fact that a large proportion of Indians who change their names after marriage are men, still, there also exists a minute percentage of men who change their names after marriage, though, the underlying reason might be very different from why it is expected of women to change their names after marriage. Men may change their names for reasons related to astrology or other such like beliefs. Men who have converted their religion after marriage may also have to change their names accordingly, and be required to take up a name which is indicative of their new religion.
Many a time, people may also be required to change their names due to a new law that is passed by the government. For example, there exists a provision in law which prohibits a person from holding any title that is indicative of royalty, this includes titles like, ‘raja’, ‘nawab’, ‘maharaja’ etc. Only three types of titles can lawfully be retained by a person:
1. Titles conferred by the government (like Padmashree, etc),
2. Military titles (like General, Major General etc) or
3. Academic titles (like doctor, advocate etc).
Any other titles needs to be necessarily dropped by a person. If such a law happens to be passed after the marriage of a person, he or she will be required to drop such illegal titles from all their official documents including passport, Aadhar card, PAN card. As a result, the person will have to mandatorily apply for a name change with the Indian authorities.
Though it is true that a lot of women change their names after marriage, it is also true that more and more women are now becoming increasingly conscious of the patriarchy that underlies such a norm and are hence refusing to abide by what they believe is an outdated norm. Instead, they choose to retain their maiden surnames. This is because the basis on which the earlier the earlier norm existed, has to a large extent, become irrelevant in today’s times. Women are more financially independent than they used to be a couple of decades ago. This is true across professions and for different sectors of the economy, whether organized or unorganized. Though not 50%, employment of women has increased over the years, predominantly because the number of educated and academically qualified has also seen an equally proportional rise. Resultantly, since the dependence of women on men has seen a plunge, so has that of number of women (and also Indians) who change their names after marriage.