Women these days seem to be faced with the dilemma, should they keep their last name after marriage, or not? In Greece, this is what has been expected for women over the last few decades, and it is only since recent years that we have been able to have the option of using our spouse's name. While for most women across the world, changing their name after marriage is considered to be a crucial part in symbolizing their commitment to marriage. Opinions tend to differ among women with some feeling that it is not that important at all.
Greece passed a law in 1983, which was part of a major set of reforms brought about in the late 1970's. It was during this period that we were moving towards a new constitution and laws after emerging from a dictatorship. A college student of that era, Maria Karamessiniş was involved in forming a company to promote gender equality. Thinking back to those days, Maria says, "For women it's emancipation to keep our names after marriage. There were many progressive laws in 1983, and the feminist movement altered their mentality," albeit gradually.
The law enacted in 1983 saw a number of changes for our women in Greece. Women were able to get out the house more often and worked towards a college degree and having a successful career. These changes did not only occur as a result of women being able to keep their names but set a dramatically different tone in "a traditional country like Greece."
Young Greeks think about their names and identities in a different way to what they do in many other nations. Many of us were not even aware how different Greece is in this regard until having discussed the topic with foreigners.
Traveling abroad, especially to the Middle East, can sometimes be a challenge for Greeks when married couples have different names, which can prove to be difficult to explain in a conservative Middle Eastern society, although it could be solved by presenting a marriage certificate. In 2008, the government used this to justify 'changing the law slightly.' Women are still required to keep their birth names but have the option of deciding whether we would like to add their spouse' name or not.
Iran had a similar system, but women still battle for their rights today. Keeping their birth name, has, however, been beneficial to those women in abusive relationships, when they felt the need to leave the marriage.
Although we as Greeks, have been known to be conservative and traditional people, our society seems to have accepted the choice for women to either 'change their name after marriage or not.'
Today, many women have decided not to change their names after the wedding, and their husbands do not question them about it either.