Mother’s Name As Initial? This legal argument on whether a child can use their mother’s surname or initials was settled back in 2003 by Tamil Nadu Government but the issue keeps resurfacing now and then. In a similar case, a mother of a Class nine child filed a case against a government school in Tamil Nadu for not allowing her daughter to keep the mother’s initials. Mother Name As Initial
On October 22, a woman, M Pothumponnu from Karur district in Tamil Nadu moved the Madhurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking relief after the government school authorities raised an objection on using the mother’s initials by her daughter, who studies in class nine in Kadavur Government High School.
Pothumponnu is a single mother to her daughter and the duo live with the woman’s parents place after her husband walked out. In the petition filed, she said that she provides for her daughter’s education and other expenses.
She never hid this from the school. At the time of her daughter’s admission, she had provided the initials for her daughter after the first letter of her own name. The same was used for all government records including Aadhar Card.
In South India, it is a common practice to use initials to the name. Traditionally, the father’s family or caste name was used as initials. But the practice was seen as extremely patriarchal.
According to her, the daughter too agreed and preferred using the mother’s initials. Although, the school allegedly had a problem with it. They raised the issue at the time of her Class 10 examination certificate and they advised her to provide them with the daughter’s father’s initials.
The court adjourned the hearing till October 26, while Judge Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy has sought a response from the State (Tamil Nadu).
These kinds of cases are not new but astonishing coming from a government school when using the mother’s initials or surname is considered legal. In 2018, the same bench under the Madras High Court had passed a judgement saying that single mothers need not disclose the name of the father at the time of registering the birth of their children.
In this case, the petitioner was a divorced woman who had a child through intrauterine fertility treatment and insemination. While giving out judgement for this case, the court also gave relief to single or unwed mothers with regards to last names and initials. Traditionally, the fathers’ name is used as the last name or initials of the children, this practice is considered to be extremely patriarchal as it still sees the women’s womb as a property of men and any child out of the woman automatically becomes men’s.
But, the Tamil Nadu Government had agreed to the usage of women’s initials for their children long back in 2003. But despite a court hearing and a government’s approval, the practice on the ground seems to be diabolical like most rulings which challenge the traditional ways but can only be judged by their social implementations.
To say in the words of Judge Rekha Palli, when she passed a judgement at the Delhi High Court on the usage of mother’s last name, “A father does not own the daughter do dictate that she should use only his surname. If the minor daughter is happy with her surname, what is your problem?”
(Opinions expressed are the author’s own)