Saturday, August 10, 2013

Is Woman a Property?

It was a simple incident but a sort-of an eye-opener. My neighbour called me up to sign as a witness in her passport application papers. The police men who had come for verification asked my name. I told them my name. Then one of them asked me to tell him my full name. I repeated my name. He wrote my first name and then asked my husband's name. Then it dawned on me that he was going to write my husband's name as the middle name. I have noticed my father's name in my mobile bill earlier as my middle name.

Image courtesy: footage.shutterstock.com
Although it was obvious, I still initiated this discussion with my Bai [help] since she is from this State. She said this is the norm here, and it has always been like this. You have your father's name with your name before marriage and your husband's name after your marriage. I said "wow! as in the case of property transfer?" She was bewildered. But tell me, isn't it so? First you are the property of your father and then your husband! In fact, more importantly, among Bais, several are married to good-for-nothing guys. So, they run the household with their money, and yet are essentially properties of their husbands!

I told her 'isn't it wrong?'. She said 'but it has been so forever now, and this is something which will never go'. Frankly speaking her thoughts are amusing to someone like me. She comes up with gems like 'a woman is always responsible when a guy has affairs outside of marriage, either the wife or the other woman. But always the woman'. I will dwell into this some other time. 

She was most surprised to know that I mostly used my maiden name. She said she has never heard this before. But frankly, this is the norm these days for several working women. There are too many hassles in getting the name changed on all the places. Some part of retaining our maiden names is convenience. 

I have also heard of certain castes where the girl is given a different name after marriage [in a way new identity]. When are we going to stop being someone's properties, I often wonder?

12 comments:

  1. hey reema .... i love reading your posts. Totally and Complete love them and enjoy them. Honestly, its more for your writing skills :) Every time i learn !
    For the first time i felt compelled to give my feedback. So here goes. Well let me start by telling you....."it isnt so!" This is not a case of woman being a property. In "this state" it starts with the name you put on the very first official government document, "the birth certificate". I am very sure it is the same for all states. A Maharashtrian has the practise of the using the "FULL NAME". Punjabi uses "Kaur". Southindian and Muslim replaces the maiden name by husbands. And in Bihar almost all women and men change their original name to Kumar/Kumari. Using or Asking for Full name does not mean that you are being treated as a property. Its been over two decade in "this state" that most women do not change their name post marriage. In India,you will find men (or even Women) irrespective of state, caste, community or wealth, treat women like personal property and abuse them be it THEIR wife, daughter or sister or someone elses. This is purely an EVIL born out of mindset. Hubby too went through this experience when he moved to Mumbai. He too being from your state was not at all accustomed to being asked Full Name! Even banks ask for full name irrespective of you being Man or Woman. So point being - Domestic, Sexual or even mental abuse of women is not governed by statehood and caste or their respective practices. :)

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    1. Hey Trupti, glad that you finally put me a comment :-)
      Well, it was an instinctive thought. We don't put father's name with our name in Bihar/Jharkhand as well. Yes father's name is definitely part of Birth Certificate or School Certificate but not our names. We only take the surnames which is a family surname. Besides, Kumar / Kumari is used widely in Bihar to protect the caste-identity of children. Many parents use a combination of two names, like Shekhar Suman, for their kids so that nobody can single them out on the basis of caste. Much blood is split on caste basis. Yes, I also agree even sons are supposed to carry father's name but their names never change.
      Moreover, the broad thought behind this post was the general practice of adopting surnames or names. Now that you have pointed this out, I am inclined to dig up why this whole thing is there in our society. I am not sure about this, but I think a wife is required to have the same surname as her husband's to even obtain a passport as his wife. I think that is crazy!

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    2. Girl....dont go crazy yet! :) A married Woman can obtain a passport with her maiden name. Most of my friends, cousins and known people do. And Yes, 90% are from "this state". If you check on the passport, it says "Given Name" wherein your name shall appear "as you give it" or "as you officially want to keep", maiden or married. Below are separate rows for mother, father and spouse's name. Thats because they are your family. When i went for our marraige certificate registration in 2006, i was specifically asked if i wish to retain my maiden name!! So the next time a government agency official from "this state" asks your full name, simply say your maiden name is officially your "FULL NAME". And if the poor bugger persists then no harm in assuming that he's asking/verifying for your family member instead of assuming he's treating you like a property :)

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    3. I am yet to cross the bridge [making passport] so I have no personal experience. But I think my mother-in-law said that my sister-in-law could not join her husband abroad because she had maiden name in her passport or some such thing. I am relieved that we don't have such stupid rules in the country. Moreover, I wasn't asked that question while making marriage certificate. My marriage certificate contains my maiden name, and I guess, if I have to change my name now, I need to go the affidavit way.
      Regarding the form, I saw him writing my husband's name as middle name. Anyways, I wasn't talking about 'this state' in particular but it just sparked the thought about adopting husband's names / surnames. But I still haven't got, why a girl needs to change her name? And it is not only in this country, it happens across the world.

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  2. Nice post, Reema. It seems that the paperwork of most government organizations assumes that the employee is male. When I joined my first job in India at a government institute, I had to mention my "wife's" name and sign a form declaring any property that my "wife" or I owned! This is a new institute, but it simply inherited the forms from older institutes, and never bothered to replace wife with spouse or husband/wife!


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    1. That's amusing as well as annoying Kaneenika. I may not have issues in adopting my husband's surname but that should be my choice.

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  3. It happens on my Hubby's side...changing name! I came to know about it after my marriage when I heard how a relative had two names! I was relieved that my In Laws didn't believe in it. These traditions are useless and have really no meaning!!! It is like u r expecting the girl to forget all about her past life and begin anew. It is utter crap!

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    1. Is it Smita? Thank God, you did not have to change your name. It is wrong to expect that a girl let go her previous life, in adopting new. My name is so much of my identity. One day if I write a book, this is the name I want to be published.

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  4. Nice post! I still use my maiden name - it seems more practical anyway...what's in a name I say, it is the person that matters. But there are several practices that insist that a woman should change her last name.....I know of a case where a guy started initiating the name changing procedures for his fiance even before they could get married! Its sad but that's how it is...I understand when people do it because they want to, but why thrust it down someones throat?? Even I got remarks like check out your mothers name, she has your dad name as your last name so why can't you change it...people just don't get it! I will change it when I want to and if I feel like it - the more they ask me to change it the more I hate it!

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    1. Oh my God! That's taking it too far, initiating procedures before marriage. How does it matter? I don't like anyone forcing me into anything. I might do it on my own but if someone forces, it would not go anywhere.

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  5. Thankfully it is not mandatory to change the name in our caste. I still see friends changing their name on Facebook etc for no reason. I would never do that. I like the name my parents have given me and I am not somebody's property. I will never change my name.

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    1. Even I have changed my name on FB [modified is a better word, because I have kept both surnames]. But apart from FB and my apartment door, everywhere else I have my maiden name. The truth is I identify with the name which I have grown up with. And like you, I love my name too. I feel it is unique and part of my identity.

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