‘Progressive’: Bill letting married women keep their maiden name draws cheers

December 2, 2021 - 3:54 PM
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Image by ericaa1215 from Pixabay

Filipinas welcomed the move of the House of Representatives to create a clear legal provision in letting married women use their own surname as a means to clarify the New Civil Code of the Philippines.

The lower chamber of the Congress on Wednesday approved on final reading House Bill 10459 which seeks to clarify Article 370 of Republic Act 386, also known as the Civil Code.

The Civil Code currently notes that a married woman may use the following:

  • Her maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or
  • Her maiden first name and her husband’s surname or
  • Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as “Mrs.”

House Bill 10459 is titled “an act providing for the right of married women to retain their maiden surnames, amending for the purpose Article 370 of Republic Act 386, as amended, otherwise known as the New Civil Code of the Philippines.”

Its proposed version is that the married woman may use the following:

  • Maiden first name and surname or
  • Maiden first name and surname and add her husband’s surname, or
  • Maiden first name and her husband’s surname or
  • Her husband’s full name, but prefixing a word indicating that she is his wife, such as “Mrs.”

The bill’s reported purpose is to “promote equality between men and women before the law” by protecting married women’s rights in keeping their maiden surnames after marriage.

Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party) claimed that some women who have been victims of domestic abuse have had difficulties in moving on from the trauma because “their name is attached to that of their abuser.”

“Malaking hakbang ito para sa kababaihan, lalo’t hindi natin mapagkakaila na ang pagbabago ng apelyido ng isang babae ay porma ng diskriminasyon sa pagrerelasyon, na tila ba kailangan niyang pantayan ang pangalan ng kanyang asawa,” she was quoted as saying.

“This is no small feat for women. In fact, this is a welcome development in recognizing the independent legal identity of women apart from their spouse,” Brosas added in another report.

“Pagkilala ito sa identitad ng isang babae na bukod pa sa kanyang asawa, at pagtataguyod ng pagkakapantay-pantay ng babae at lalaki sa batas,” Gabriela separately said in a Facebook post.

Rep. Luis Campos Jr. (Makati City, 2nd District), a co-author of the bill, said that “most Filipinos are not aware that a married woman also has a choice to retain her maiden name.”

A prevailing jurisprudence already notes that “a married woman has the option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband.”

This was based on the 2010 case between Maria Virginia Remo vs. the Secretary of the Foreign Affairs in which then-Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio shares his decision.

“We agree with petitioner that the use of the word ‘may’ in the above provision indicates that the use of the husband’s surname by the wife is permissive rather than obligatory,” he wrote before.

“Clearly, a married woman has an option, but not a duty, to use the surname of the husband in any of the ways provided by Article 370 of the Civil Code. She is therefore allowed to use not only any of the three names provided in Article 370, but also her maiden name upon marriage. She is not prohibited from continuously using her maiden name once she is married because when a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status,” Carpio added.

Campos reportedly said that House Bill 10459 “does not in any way amend the law, what it does is [clarify] the choices of surnames a married woman may use after marriage.”

“This will would empower women since she would now have a clear legal provision stating that they have an option to retain their last name even after marriage,” he added.

‘Pro-women policies’ 

The House’s move was lauded by some Filipinos who called it a “progress.”

“DASURV!!! To more women getting the credit they are due, to more women not having to undergo the hassle process of name-changing, and to more pro-women policies in the country!” a Twitter user said in response to the reports.

“This is good. As a person who went through annulment, it’s better to have options,” another online user commented.

“I think importante din na may batas talagang magawa para dito, aside na meron na ito sa existing laws natin, para may ngipin ang batas. Kasi kahit nasa batas na ito, pero ang mga government agencies ay patriarchal pa rin ang umiiral,” a different Filipino tweeted.

“Sa tingin ko, importante man ito o hindi, depende sa tumitingin, eh malaking bagay ito para sa mga kababaihan na nahihirapan sa mga papeles nila. Ngayon, meron [nang] susundin ang lahat ng institusyon patungkol sa bagay na ito,” another Twitter user said.

How about other issues? 

Other Filipinos said that there are more “pressing” matters to tackle such as crafting divorce and same-sex marriage bills.

The Philippines is the only country in the world that does not allow divorce, the act of legally ending a marriage. Same-sex marriage is also not legalized in the archipelago.

“This one is already in our law. You know what other bill you can pass into law? Divorce, babe. Divorce,” a Twitter user commented.

“We got that, when we want this,” another online user said, sharing a GIF of Adele saying “Divorce, babe, divorce.”

Last August, the House Committee on Population and Family Relations passed a bill legalizing absolute divorce. It is now up for plenary debates in the House of Representatives.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court last year junked with finality a motion for reconsideration filed by LGBTQ+ advocates seeking recognition of same-sex marriage in the country.