The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that a married woman can use her maiden name without the addition of her husband’s last name in a victory for women.
In a landmark verdict, the highest judiciary authority in the Turkish legal system put an end to a long-standing debate whether women should be allowed to use their maiden names while married. The verdict stated that women can change their identity cards to write their maiden name instead of adopting the last name from their spouses, challenging a ruling by the Constitutional Court that women can only bear their maiden name with the inclusion of their husband’s last name.
The court said its ruling was in compliance with the European Convention of Human Rights and international convention for prevention of discrimination against women, justifying that international agreements should be complied before the application of local laws.
The ruling is binding and lower courts will be obliged to approve applications by married women to use their maiden names.
The case stems from the application of Hatice Yılmaz Yüksekyıldız, a woman who sought her identity card to be changed to include only Yılmaz, her maiden name. The local civil registry had turned down her application and Yüksekyıldız, who is now able to be identified only as Hatice Yılmaz, started a legal battle. After a series of legal entanglements over her right to use her maiden name, the Court of Appeals had the final say on the verdict, paving the way for other married women to apply for the usage of maiden names alone.
Women’s rights-supporting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) had already launched a bid for equal status in regards to the usage of last names and been lobbying authorities to change the existing civic laws.
Currently, although the constitution does not allow women to use their maiden names without their husbands’ last names, the principle of compatibility with international conventions on the issue enable women to do so, but only if they file a lawsuit.
Advocates of maiden name usage dismiss criticism that the usage would lead to complications and note that several countries including Germany, France and Austria already had laws in place enabling women to keep their maiden name without any complications especially in terms of paperwork, in financial transactions, et cetera. Turkey already has a law guaranteeing the personal inviolability, material and spiritual identity of individuals though the courts often interpret laws differently to block women from using only their maiden names.