An old saying asserts that ”when a woman gets married, she belongs to her husband and bears everything that belongs to him, including his family name.” But is this evident in every culture, society and religion?
For years, women have been adopting their husbands’ surnames upon marriage and it has become a cultural convention in Nigeria.
Although it may not be a modern-day legal requirement, many women still choose to change their names.
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In Nigeria it is legal to call yourself whatever you want – as long as you have a copy of the change of name publication on any daily newspaper.
It is a common practice for women to bear their husbands’ last names when they get married. However, there’s no law that makes this compulsory. Women choose to adopt their husband’s last name for various reasons after marriage.
Some married women change their last name because they considered it as an emblem of marital status as well as the ‘perceived prestige’ that comes with marriage.
“I can’t wait to get married and drop my father’s name, let the naysayers know I’m married,’ says a single, Adeola Salami.
Others change their surnames as a result of travel laws and restrictions that make it difficult for couples who bear different names to travel hence they want to share the same surname as their kids.
“So after my husband proposed to me, I got another proposal asking me if I would take his name. That made me realise that apart from agreeing to marry him, taking his family name was very important to him. When I said yes I will take his family name, he went ecstatic,” an academic, Medinat Abdulazeez-Malefakis, said.
She added, “I decided I was going to take his family name because I saw that it was important to him. Then because I was relocating to Switzerland, I wanted all of us (with the children) to have the same family name.”
Abdulazeez-Malefakis, cited her profession as another reason she adopted both her last name and that of her husband.
“While I wanted to adopt his last name fully, for my work, it was a bit difficult. As an academic, I was known and had published a lot of works as Medinat Abdulazeez. If I chose to now be Medinat Malefakis, many people will not realise that I am one and the same person.
“So I will be disconnected from my previous academic works. That is why in academic settings, I am now Medinat Abdulazeez-Malefakis. In my other life as a development practitioner, I am medinat Malefakis,” she added.
Like the lecturer, many married women, especially those who have equal level of attachment to their father and husband’s surnames hyphenate both to serve as their last name.
Why I won’t change my surname
However, many women will continue to bear their maiden names even after marriage.
Lilian Ogazi, a media practitioner, is one of such women. Ogazi wouldn’t change her last name due to her career.
“I didn’t change it because my husband is indifferent about it. Plus because career, I cannot just start changing my name just like that.”
But Chinedu Okafor, a Lagos-based teacher, said retaining a woman’s maiden name after marriage is unnecessary.
“Why should my daughter retain my name after marriage? That’s unnecessary, she now belongs to her husband and is expected to take on everything that belongs to his family, including his name.
“There’s no verse in the Bible that says a woman should carry her home to another home. So, once she’s out of my watch, she should bear her husband’s name.”
On the contrary, Rafiat Tijjani, a freelance writer in Lagos, said she is still using her father’s name after marriage.
She said, “I’m still using my father’s name because in Islam, the ideal thing is for you to claim your father’s name and not another person’s father’s name.
“That is because it is Allah’s order to keep your father’s name as an indication of your lineage.
“The fact that you got married to your husband does not make your father not your father again.”
Tijjani’s view is predicated on a verse in the Qur’an which discourages women from adopting their husband’s last names after marriage.
“Call them by (the names of) their fathers, that is more just with Allaah…” (Quran 33:5)
And the Prophet (P B.U.H) in a Hadith narrated by IBM Maja-Saheeh was quoted to have said: “Whoever calls himself by a name other than his father’s name will be cursed by Allah, the angels and all the people.”
In another narration, Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “Whoever knowingly claims to belong to anyone other than his father, paradise will be denied him,” Ahmad, al-Bukhaari, Muslim, quoted the Prohphet.
When asked if she adopted her husband’s last name, Zainab Aminu’s response was also in line with that of Tijjani.
“I prefer using my last name and islamically it’s more advisable to use your last name than your husband’s,” she said.
Will you as a woman adopt your husband’s last name after marriage?
As a man, what’s your take on this? Will you be pleased or sad to watch your daughter drop your name after marriage?
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