Not all men have accepted the arguments put forward by these women
On December 29, 2012, Wiline Dieudonné got married to the man of her life, but under one condition: she would never take his name.
This decision did not gain unanimous support. Some members of the groom’s family see it as a decision stemming from a lack of love.
The mother of a ten-year-old girl stood her ground. A 43-year-old political scientist and staunch feminist, she believes that taking someone else’s name after marriage is « like saying you are not a complete person in your own right. »
This stance is gaining popularity. Although there are no official statistics, an increasing number of Haitian women are deciding to keep their names after marriage. Six of them were interviewed for this article. Almost all of them mentioned wanting to retain their identities as citizens and professionals without having to be tied to a man.
Although there are no official statistics, an increasing number of Haitian women are deciding to keep their names after marriage.
Others speak of the anxiety surrounding the need to have their documents rectified in the event of a divorce.
Wiline Dieudonné finds herself in this very situation. After seven years of marriage, the native of the city of Saint Raphaël in the North is now going through a separation. She is happy to have kept the promise she made at the age of nineteen not to take the name of any potential husband. Otherwise, she would have had to request a change of name on all her documents today, she explains.
Lire aussi : Tout ce qu’il faut savoir sur le mariage en Haïti
Taking the name of one’s husband is a tradition. According to experts, there is no legal obligation to do so in the country. It is a legacy of the French legal system, found in the Haitian Civil Code dating back to 1825, according to criminal lawyer Frantz Gabriel Nerette.
This practice originated from a time when women were prohibited from engaging in certain professions and were primarily confined to domestic chores in the private sphere.
This reality is gradually fading away.
Today, Haitian women – though underrepresented in certain important professions – can be found in almost every field. They are no longer considered « minors » since the publication of the decree of October 8, 1982, which granted married women certain rights.
Almost all of them mentioned wanting to retain their identities as citizens and professionals without having to be tied to a man.
For instance, some women have taken time to make a name for themselves and to build a professional career on their own. Changing their name after marriage in this context can be detrimental to them.
“ A woman who works as a specialist doctor of renown, for example, may fall into anonymity if she gets married and takes the name of someone who is not very well known, » adds criminal lawyer Nerette.
The consequences can be devastating. This name change, without the appropriate marketing, can result in a loss of reputation and clientele for the woman.
Some women have taken time to make a name for themselves and to build a professional career on their own. Changing their name after marriage in this context can be detrimental to them.
Not all men accept these arguments. Fedna David got married in 2017, and when she informed her husband that she did not intend on taking his name after marriage, he was furious, she says.
« He is someone who values tradition, but my decision was already made, and it was irrevocable, » explains Fedna David.
This decision created tensions in the couple. In 2021, she stopped sharing a bed with her husband, and now she finds herself in the process of getting a divorce.
« My mother was known as ‘Mrs. so-and-so’ and not as a person with her own identity, » explains David, with concern for her feminist ideas. « When it came to buying property or completing administrative formalities, it was always my father’s name that had to be used. »
Fedna David is categorical: « I don’t want to disappear under the identity of my husband, » she says. « My name is part of my identity, and deciding to abandon it for someone else’s name is abusive. »
According to the Civil Code, a woman loses the use of her husband’s name through divorce. After this decision, « the judge may ask the woman to revert to her maiden name or keep the husband’s name, » says attorney Frantz Gabriel Nerette.
However, the ex-husband can, at the time of divorce, request that the woman does not keep his name.
The opposite is not applicable, neither in custom nor in law.
« So, a man cannot take his wife’s name, and this stems from a patriarchal society, » continues Attorney Nerette.
According to the Civil Code, a woman loses the use of her husband’s name through divorce.
Aliuskha Shelda Éliassaint is a lawyer and entrepreneur committed to the empowerment of women.
The young woman plans on getting married in early January 2024. However, she has also decided to break with the tradition of taking her husband’s last name.
« My last name is part of my identity even after marriage, » she says. « I do not intend to give that up. »
This decision is also shared by Eneulla Chery, a 24-year-old woman studying international relations and sociology at the State University of Haiti.
Chery wants to get married in the coming years, but she does not want to take her future husband’s name to maintain her connection with her family.
In a married couple, the father gives his name to the children, according to the Civil Code. However, an unmarried woman can give her maiden name to her child.
The vast majority of women still follow the tradition of taking their husband’s name.
Sophia Exama, a lawyer and an instructor in event decorating, plans to get married in 2026. She intends on taking her husband’s name after marriage so that « people will call me Mrs., followed by my husband’s name. »
This is a serious matter for the 31-year-old woman. « If a man doesn’t have a nice last name, he should not approach me, » she says.
« This article has been updated to specify the source of a quotation. 20:15, July 31, 2023. »
English translation by Sarah Jean.
© Cover image : freepik
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