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CBSE Wants This Single Mom To Prove Her Single Mom Status

Posted: April 1, 2019

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Rules in many places still need a child to have a father’s name on documents. Let’s outlaw this patriarchal compulsion in this day and age!

What’s in a name? said Shakespeare famously, though in life there is everything in a name; it is the first and most visible form of our identity next to our body.

Children in all patriarchal societies “carry the father’s name”, progeny by default belongs to the father’s lineage and in Hindu religious beliefs they carry not just the father’s last name but also his caste/religion/gotra. However for women this is believed to change when they get married, at marriage they are believed to give up the last name/caste/religion/gotra of the father and adopt that of their husband.

Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, recognises the natural guardian of a minor as “the father, and after him, the mother.” It only when a child is born out of wedlock does the law recognises the mother as the natural guardian.

It is on this that Aparna, a single mom, came up against in officialdom in CBSE, and tweeted about it.

In this time and age where there are increasing number of divorces, single parents by surrogacy and mixed families it is truly archaic though, to still stick to these norms.

Being a divorced woman and single parent myself and dreading the red tape of changing names here, I legally still carry my married name and the child carries her father’s last name. It becomes more complicated when the child or the parent with the custody (mother) of the child doesn’t wish to use the father’s last name or his name at all on any of the legal documents of the child, as seems to be the case with Aparna who has directly asked the Minister for Human Resource and Development in a series of tweets about the same, sparking the debate afresh about why testimonials and legal documents have father’s name or husband’s in case of married women as an essential.

In 1992 and then again in 1994 Asha Mittal had legally challenged the practice of entering only the father’s name in school certificates when both her sons appeared in the Central Board of Secondary Examinations (CBSE) exams. Her case brought about a significant change in the rules of CBSE which revised its examination byelaws and amended Rule 68, which came into effect from 1999 onwards ordering that the certificates for students finishing Class X and XII examinations will include the mother’s name as well.

The Delhi High Court ruled in 2016 that in certain cases a mother’s name is sufficient for a child to apply for a passport, “especially because a single woman can be a natural guardian as well as a parent.” The Ministry of External Affairs had revised its passport application rules and announced that the name of only one parent, and not both, was enough, enabling single parents to apply for passports for their children.

“This court also takes judicial notice of the fact that families of single parents are on the increase due to various reasons like unwed mothers, sex workers, surrogate mothers, rape survivors, children abandoned by father and also children born through IVF technology,” the ruling said.

In Githa Hariharan vs Reserve Bank of India, which challenged the constitutional validity of Section 6, the Supreme Court deemed both mother and father as natural guardians of a child.

While working on the suggestion made by the Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, the University Grants Commission (UGC) in 2017 announced that it will make the father’s name optional on the degree.

But despite court rulings and announcements by the Ministry various public and private organisations and institutions continue to issue forms/documents that require the father name as mandatory, and thousands of women and children remain with not much choice as always in patriarchy.

Image source: image source: shutterstock

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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