Women in Turkey can now use solely own surnames after marriage

The Turkish Constitutional Court's decision to overturn the provision restricting women from using their surnames after marriage became effective on Jan. 28. However, legal experts highlight the existence of a legal gap until the Turkish Parliament introduces a relevant clause.

The photograph shows a Turkish marriage license.

Duvar English

On Jan. 28, the Constitutional Court's decision to abolish the provision in the Turkish Civil Code, which prevented women from using solely their own surnames after marriage, officially took effect.

Article 187 of the Turkish civil code states, “A woman takes her husband's surname upon marriage; however, she can also use her previous surname before her husband's surname with a written application to the marriage officer or later to the civil registry office.” The law did not allow women to use only their surnames after marriage. 

The Constitutional Court on April 2023 ruled to abolish the article's first sentence and allowed nine months for the Turkish Parliament to draft a new article that is in line with gender equality. The nine-month allotment ran out on Jan. 28. 

The parliament has not yet prepared a draft article, however, the article is expected to be included in the new judicial reform package. Law professor Nazan Moroğlu commented that a legal gap regarding the matter would arise for couples that married after Jan. 28, according to reporting by Anadolu Agency. 

Noting that the AYM ruling was the culmination of a 25-year struggle for equal rights, Moroğlu said, “The surname is an essential, indispensable, and inalienable personal right.” The expert continued that bestowing the right only to men led to discrimination against women and gender inequality.

The top court stated that the civil law article was against the equality clause of the constitution, and unequally treated partners of similar standing based on their genders.

Women are no longer obliged to open a lawsuit to keep using their surnames along with their husband’s surnames after marriage, and can also choose to only use their own surnames. 

Professor Moroğlu added that all articles in connection with Article 187 needed amendment, including surnames of children, and surnames after divorce. “Saying that a married woman must take her husband’s surname, and the child take their father’s surname is lending official support to the patriarchy,” said Moroğlu.

The AYM ruling also outlined a potential roadmap for further amendments to the civil law. “It is clear that there exist other options for families to have a common surname than the woman taking over her husband’s surname after marriage,” stated the court. 

The ruling suggests couples should be provided with the option to take over either one’s surname, another surname, or use a combination of both parties’ surnames after marriage. 

Judge Muammer Topal who voted against the ruling, had deemed the equality between men and women "one of the modern superstitions," when explaining why he expressed a dissenting opinion in the April 2023 decision. 

The judge drew criticism as he held, “There is structural inequality between men and women as a reality of creation. This situation is generally seen as an obstacle to the equality of women and men in terms of their position in society.”