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She Changes Her Name, Her House And Her ‘Gotra’ After Marriage. But What After Divorce?

Posted: November 21, 2019

When a woman gets married to a man, our society asks her to change her surname and her gotra. But what after her divorce? Or a remarriage? Does she change it all again?

I came across a strange question today morning. And yes, it was strange, and patriarchal. This article is to seek answers and show one more harsh reality of a woman’s life to the world.

One of my team members showed signs of depression, anxiety, irritation and frustration the last few weeks. I tried talking to her several times but she kept quiet. So, I respected her silence.

However, today morning, she called me to ask this question and burst into tears. And the irony was that I didn’t have an answer that was logical, practical and would also console her.

The teary-eyed question

The question was, “Ma’am my husband recently divorced me. I have been battling severe depression since then. He left me for another woman because I didn’t even want the divorce.

Recently I visited a temple with my family and relatives. While offering the puja, the temple priest asked everyone their names and gotra (family lineage).

So, I gave my husband’s, kids and my own name with the gotra. The puja started. But suddenly one of my relatives shouted and asked the priest to stop the puja. When we asked her why, she said some details were incorrect. She meant that my gotra was no longer the same as my husband’s given that we are divorced. 

At the same time, my children have the same gotra as my husband. So I asked her what my gotra  would be. To which the priest says that it goes back to the same as my father’s gotra. Now, if I get married to someone else, the gotra changes again- to that of my new husband. Everyone scolded me for being ignorant and naïve.

Ma’am, I am really confused. In a modern-day context, how can a woman’s life be so patriarchal? Don’t I have any identity of my own? Do I always have to bear the brunt of every situation, no matter whose fault it is?

All this just because I am a woman! So my lineage will change every time I get married to someone?”

A woman’s identity crisis

Needless to say, the divorce rate today is becoming more proportional to that of marriages. It is not uncommon to see people finding their soul mate in their third or fourth marriage. What happens then?

Are we living in such a regressive society? Is this another harsh reality that is contradictory, patriarchal and debatable?

Several decades have gone by but the struggle for a woman’s identity still persists. Talk to any woman today and she will have a story that is completely different.

The identity of a woman, even today, is marginalised by the riot of social practices imposed by religious dogmas and societal institutions. Despite there being several institutions, women activists and feminists who fight for a woman’s identity today, the truth remains distorted.

Debates, events, runs for a woman’s identity, walks with a social message, conferences, international meets, talks on women’s day, gender equality and the list goes endless. The catastrophe of a woman’s identity is the harsh reality of today’s society.

I ask you all today…

How does this ‘gotra changing’ phenomena work, given that this is a society that claims marriage to be ‘the culmination of two souls.’? Ideally, if a couple decides to separate, this culmination breaks and the identity of the woman goes back to that of what she was before marriage.

And it changes again when she remarries. The bottom line is that, in order to live in this society, a woman needs her father or husband’s lineage. She needs a man’s lineage just to offer prayers in the temple. And nothing is standardised. It will all change according to the situation.

Now, this can again be a topic of debate. The debate could be how many times will a woman get married, and the number of divorces there are. Divorces continue to be riddled with social stigma and the stereotypical beliefs.

A woman’s identity has grown beyond these capitalistic and feudal contexts. Needless to say, the 21st-century woman does not believe that ‘marriage is the destination of her life story.’ The modern woman is confident and powerful. She is mentally strong and capable of moving on in her life without the borrowed identity of a man.

Indeed ‘life after divorce‘ is a double-edged sword that a woman stands on. A woman who is going through or has recently gone through a divorce is in a traumatic phase.

Be it a year old marriage or one that lasted for over 15 years, the trauma of coming out of a divorce is definitely long-lived. These societal pressures and stereotypical demands bring down her confidence. It makes a woman feel worthless without any identity.

So, what is the solution?

How do you give the woman in your life her worth? When and how will your daughter, mother, sister, aunt, friend live in peace?

She is a divorcee. Does that mean she has to wait to get married to an older man or a widower or someone with kids?

Can’t a woman continue her family lineage after marriage too?

What is wrong if she does not accept the change in her gotra just as she doesn’t adopt a new surname?

These are questions that attract stereotypical answers. But who is suffering at the end of the day? It is the “woman of today.” She is still struggling with this identity crisis because someone in her world continues to accept the patriarchal societal beliefs, demands, and bondages.

Keeping her identity intact, continuing her family name and gotra is something that should be left to a woman alone.

Why should a social stigma compel her to depend on a man’s identity always?

Picture credits: Pexels

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An entrepreneur, Founder-Director of Pencil9, a freelance writer, a relationship expert, a blogger and

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