When a woman in India chooses not to take her husband’s surname

Dear reader,

Madhuri Xalxo's late mother Ignatio Toppo decided to keep her maiden name after she married. This was a seemingly small decision, but it led to significant monetary loss for the family after Toppo’s death, in 2021. Specifically, the bank in Jamshedpur where Toppo's pension was deposited has still not redirected the money to her husband, because the account holder's name didn't match his surname, which her death certificate bore.

Across India, women who choose not to take their husband's surnames after they marry struggle with various such hurdles, as do their families. This is ironic, considering, as the feminist writer and academic Nivedita Menon has noted, that the "emergence of the universal 'surname'" occurred as "part of the homogenizing practices of the modern colonial state".

For Common Ground, Nolina Minj spoke to women across India who had chosen not to take their husband's names, and the struggles they had to endure as a result, which ranged from the inconvenient to the infuriating. You can read the story here.

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Ajay Krishnan
Senior Editor


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