You’re married, should you change your name?

It has been regarded as tradition for women to take their husbands’ last name after marriage. With the current feminist wave, however, it’s no longer presumed that a woman will change her last name when she gets married. Apparently, men too can now choose to adopt their wife’s last name if they want to.

However, much as this tradition has been revered for centuries, should changing a name after marriage be such a big decision? And should it remain a crucial step for one to consider?

 

Paul Rwakahungu, a compliance officer, says he would rather stick to tradition and have the woman change her last name when they get married.

 

He explains that according to him, a name is an identification of someone’s roots and ancestral background.

 

Some couples choose to keep both of their last names once married. / Photos: Net

“By African standards, which by all obligations as a man I am the custodian and regarded as head of the family, I should be given the privilege of conserving the ancestral lineage without diversion.

“Secondly, in a wide range of African cultures, a man earns his wife through what we call payment of dowry. Lastly, but still within African cultural context, when a woman gets married, she leaves her ancestral lineage and inherits a new family and so, it’s only rational that she rebrands herself into the new family by taking up the names of her husband, not for prestige as many think, but as a sign of being taken over by another family,” Rwakahungu explains.

Phrister Nakato, a local comedian, says she would definitely love to take her husband’s name after marriage. She says she would also love for her kids to take on that name too as a sign of pride for their family.

“I feel like it’s an honour to take on my husband’ name. Sharing the same name feels like the family is real, serious and unique,” she says. 

She is, however, against the idea of the man being the one to take on her last name as the wife.

“My husband taking on my name? No way, he is the head of the family, which means I should be the one to take on his. I consider that as disrespectful,” Nakato says.

Sam Ruhindi, a photographer and poet, explains that he understands this tradition as one that started with women having their family names, and when they got married and were starting a new family, they would then take on their husbands’ names as heads of their families.

He says that though he respects tradition, he would rather do it differently.

Ruhindi is of the view that changing his name or giving his name to someone is not a decision he would want to make alone. He thinks it would be best if he had a discussion with his future wife and decide on which name to take or if they could actually both keep their names. 

“This is a topic that we would definitely have together as a couple. But to some extent, I am against this idea of taking family names, reason being that at times last names carry meaning to the extent that it could end up haunting your children and entire family,” he says.

Sylvia Elizabeth says she would take on her husband’s last name out of respect, though she would still prefer to keep hers.

“I would take his name out of love for my own dependence but I wouldn’t let my husband take on my last name. My last name could as well be my father’s too and that’s a no go,” she says.

She observes that most women she knows take on their husbands’ names as a custom now, out of respect or even because their husbands demand it in order to make a social statement, but not because they really want to. 

 “Choosing to take on the last names should very much be normalised. Men taking on their wives’ names on the other hand is pretty awkward, though I think that’s because it’s not something we are all used to. But it’s still not a bad idea because, well at least it’s even,” she adds.

dmbabazi@newtimesrwanda.com

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