Women's Surname Change
How do women experience the surname change issue in terms of the protection of equal, legal, social and economic rights? To begin with, I started to think about this question in a larger context when my surname was changed without my consent after my marriage. One day I realized I had two diplomas, each with a different name on it; however, both those people are me. More
How do women experience the surname change issue in terms of the protection of equal, legal, social and economic rights? To begin with, I started to think about this question in a larger context when my surname was changed without my consent after my marriage. One day I realized I had two diplomas, each with a different name on it; however, both those people are me. Visually, my name has multiplied like an amoeba: Hande Çayır, Hande Aydın, Hande Çayır Aydın. From this visible sign, people around me—for example, civil establishment—have gained the apparent right to talk about my personal life in the public sphere.
Afterward, I remembered the feminist quote “personal is political”, started my own research, and found out that women in Turkey are required to change their surname when they marry and divorce. If they would like to continue using their ex-husband’s surname after a divorce, they need to get permission from both the ex-husband and the state. Because of this unfair policy, some women have appealed to the ECHR and subsequently the ECHR is requiring the Turkish government to pay an indemnity. Thus, the link between surnames and identity is a crucial human rights debate. The media portrays this issue as one that is currently being solved. However, after my visit to the Turkish Grand National Assembly, I came to the conclusion that the process is not moving forward at all.
The first time the surname change issue caught my attention was via e-mail. I had graduated from college and had started to work full-time in 2005. Around the same time, my manager sent a message with an unusual signature to our entire team. She used a double surname with one in brackets, in the form “Dilara (Kent) Stone”. I never forgot the image of that scene, as it meant a lot to me: It is a visual sign, a cultural code, with her feelings in between, a decision in the making. I asked her the meaning of the brackets and got the impression that our manager was, wholeheartedly, trying to become familiar with her new identity. I felt angry and could not pin down the source of my anger; however, I suppose I knew what the brackets meant before asking. My aim was, intentionally, to make her think, but of course she had already been thinking about the issue, as the brackets say so. At first, my question made her uncomfortable for a while. From this visible sign, the brackets, the double-surname usage, one person can develop an opinion of another’s personal life. At that point, the private inevitably becomes public.
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