This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Youth Ki Awaaz. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Why I Don’t Think The Latest Trend Of Hyphenation Of Surnames After Marriage Is Any Better

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

By Manasi Raj Chaudhari:

Women the world over have started hanging on to their maiden names post-wedlock. Most of them often hyphenate their maiden names with their husband’s family name. Aishwarya Rai has become Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit has suffixed a little ‘Nene’ to her name. I am not accrediting the emerging trend to the women of Bollywood, but they are the most obvious examples that come to my mind. The celebrity status of these women ensures that they have a mass appeal which creates a domino effect upon the society that looks up to them.


The practice of hyphenation is certainly being heralded as progressive, egalitarian, and representative of a breed of modern women with strong identities which they are not reluctant to flaunt. Looks like the patriarchal society has finally given married women the luxury to hold on to the name they’ve always identified with. The practice works somewhat like this – when Ms. X and Mr. Y get married, Ms. X can simply add on her husband’s name to her maiden name. Everyone is pleased with the effect and the apparent equality of it all. In fact, it is so equitable that Ms. X morphs her name into Mrs. X-Y, but Mr. Y continues to remain Mr. Y. We don’t see him becoming Mr. Y-X, and we certainly don’t see Mr. Abhishek Bachchan lovingly add ‘Rai’ to his name. It’s hard to miss the irony in the equation here – while marriage is the union of two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together, only one of them represents this union in nomenclature. I’d be erring if I don’t mention that there are examples of marriages where both the wife and the husband proceed with their names remaining unchanged. No one gets into the mess of hyphenating or suffixing. This seems like a clean and practical solution to the patriarchal bias towards the man’s family name.

Coming back to Ms. X and Mr. Y, they continue to live happily (married) ever after. Let’s assume Ms. X and Mr. Y have a child. Their dear friend patriarchy is only too eager to be a part of the child’s naming ceremony. The child is automatically given his father’s family name and becomes Jr. Y. Whatever happened to the family name of Ms. X, the mother of the child, who is as equally involved (if not more) in parenting the child as the father is? In a marriage where both the parents don’t have a homogenous last name, would it be fair to instinctively ignore the mother’s maiden name and give the child the father’s name? Clearly not. Our so-called liberal thinking tends to stop at the point of marriage, and falls short of looking into the future. While step 1 is successfully completed, the progress is scuttled right there and does not proceed to step 2. We may have a few Eric Claptons in the world, who proudly hang on to their mother’s maiden name, but they are certainly outnumbered by the rest of us who perpetuate patriarchy.

Patriarchal traditions carry on unquestioned for generations because people are afraid of change. Humans would rather maintain status quo, even if they are aware that it is not the fairest situation, than be revolutionary. We are afraid to question existing norms and justify our fears under the excuse that if it’s been done for so many generations, it has to be the right method. Then there are those who would love to see an equal world for women and men, but will not themselves pioneer the change. A system, and more importantly a society, can change only if every individual decides to take a step towards making it happen. I have already taken my first step, and proudly suffix both my mother’s and father’s family names to my first name. My next step is to spread awareness in whichever practical manner I can.

I want to simply get people thinking about these issues. By putting forward my thoughts, I don’t aim to influence or coerce people into believing that my way of thinking is the right way or that every woman should hang on to her maiden name and replicate it in her child’s name. As much as I am of the opinion that this is the way for me to be, I must clarify that I am as open and respectful to the next woman who chooses to adopt her husband’s name or let go of her maiden name.

My problem is not with women taking their husband’s names, and we can see that some of the most educated and modern women like Amal Clooney (previously known as Amal Alamuddin) are choosing to do so too. My problem only lies with the patriarchal norm of imposing the husband’s name on the wife and the father’s name on the child. If this weren’t an imposition and the woman was given the freedom to take her pick, then the system would have been fairer.

Husband’s name or maiden name, mother’s name or father’s name, family name or random name, an individual’s name is something very personal, and best left to the individual’s preference rather than to the society’s diktats.

This article was originally published on the author’s personal blog

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    I have already taken my first step, and proudly suffix both my mother’s and father’s family names to my first name.

    Giving children last names of both parents is not a practical solution because the order in which the last names are taken, of the mother and father, will make a difference to the names that are passed on to children. I’ll use your name as an example. If we are talking strictly about equality, should you have included Raj first or Chaudhary along with your name, and the bigger question, which name will you pass on to your children?

  2. Templetwins

    The same sentiment had been on YKA before, an article by the name ‘what’s in a surname, more than you think’, this is simply the rehash on the same one-sided complaining about female obligation in a traditional society. The traditional society had set both obligations and privilege for both men and women. While this article only complains about the obligation that women goes through for being a wife while not seeing all the variables of a supposedly equal marriage. I am going to suggest how we can make it equal.

    The idea of women carrying their husbands name comes from the idea of a traditional ‘sense of belonging’. It means when you were a daughter you have rights to that of your fathers property, his labor(money), hence you carry his name. When you get married, you get similar rights from you husband, ie he is supposed to financially support you (enforced by law), on separation he must share his property/savings with you (enforced by law). If you don’t want the obligation of carrying your husbands name, then his financial obligation towards you should also be withdrawn. Equality triumphs.

    The second point is that children carry the fathers name as a means of paternal promise and also the traditional sense of belonging. So what is paternal promise? Any child that is born carries the moms DNA for sure, while a woman can be impregnated by anybody and since paternity test is not mandated, we give the child the fathers name to embrace the sense of paternal promise. It also means that he as a bread-winner must provide that child until he/she becomes an adult, even if he is separated from the mother and she wins the sole custody of a child. You don’t like the idea? Then make paternity test mandatory and remove men from the financial obligation. Equality triumphs again!

    1. Matt

      You said it beautifully!!

      I totally agree with you!

  3. Priya

    I fail to see how the author has taken the ‘first step’ towards changing the patriarchal way of surname fixing. You’ve taken your mother’s surname, which is mostly her father’s. So what’s the big deal? I’ve retained my maiden name which is my name followed by my father’s. So whether my child takes his/her maternal grandfather’s name or his paternal grandfather’s name, I don’t see it as any first step towards ending patriarchy. You want to be truly different? Take your mother’s first name or your grandmother’s if you are into bloodlines.

    My sister and husband decided to craft a unique surname that was neither of theirs. Post marriage they dropped their surnames and took on a new one. Whether their son will follow in their footsteps and create another identity with his spouse or chooses his ‘family’ name for his progeny it is up to him. I don’t think anyone should be in any hurry to claim they’ve taken ‘firsts steps’ by mere token gestures.

  4. souravdas

    I think social norms change over the time and notion of liberalism too.
    So at this point of time why a family name is burdened upon a child also?
    Be it father be it mother.. Then come what is the validity of reason behind having a family name?
    And then you have to address the problems a person faces if he or she doesn't carry a surname.
    And I forgot.. This is really a grave problem.
    I have seen people struggling with it. But the way society is evolving this doesn't seem to be grave problem.

More from Youth Ki Awaaz

Similar Posts

By Ganita

By Love Matters India

By Bidisha Bhatacharya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below