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What is in a man's name?

By Vision Reporter

Added 28th February 2012 12:50 PM

He was her Sweet Hubby for years, and she, his beloved Wifey, but not anymore.They parted ways, the wounds have healed, but the scars are deep and the rift between the two is as wide as an ocean.

He was her Sweet Hubby for years, and she, his beloved Wifey, but not anymore.They parted ways, the wounds have healed, but the scars are deep and the rift between the two is as wide as an ocean.

By Carol Kasujja

He was her Sweet Hubby for years, and she, his beloved Wifey, but not anymore.They parted ways, the wounds have healed, but the scars are deep and the rift between the two is as wide as an ocean.

They both took completely different directions, vowing never to get together again, like the proverbial oil and vinegar. It is all over, she said and swore to have nothing to do with him whatsoever, but wait: There is one part of him she dragged along with her — his name!

Traditionally, a woman is expected to take on her husband’s last name when the two get married, thanks to our foreign masters’ ways. But you are now miles apart — physically, spiritually, emotionally, and all… so what is all this I-can’t-standon-my-own sort of feeling?

Why continue to hold onto his name years after you are divorced? A good number of women in this scenario argue that they maintain their ex-spouses’ names in order not to lose out on the achievements they have made.

These include academic papers, career, political, business profiles, which documents bear the man’s names.

“I started my political career under that name and I have advanced under the same name. Everybody knows me by that name, so I would be doing myself a disservice to discard it just like that just because I separated with him. It would be like blowing up all my efforts, which is suicidal.

After all, it is just a name and no one can claim monopoly over a name?” says a female politician, who preferred to remain anonymous.

This female politician and her husband called it quits more than a decade ago. The two have never met since, but the former still uses her ex-husband’s name.

We have also seen cases of important personalities such as Winnie Mandela retaining their ex-spouse’s name long after they both have ‘moved on’. But there is a school of thought that argues that clinging onto your ex-husband’s name depicts lack of self-esteem and independence.

“It is like you cannot stand on your own,” says Filda Baligeya, a banker. “The scenario portrays women as a vulnerable group that has no identity and cannot stand on their own. It is an inner weakness no woman wants to admit, but which is real. It is a psychological issue.”

“Why is it that the same women who give such reasons as career achievements were quick to throw away their maiden name when they married?

Hadn’t they achieved anything under their maiden names, which they threw away, for example, academic documents which bear one’s maiden name?” she asks. Cissy Birungi, a telecom technician in Ntinda, says: “I know a woman who cohabited with a man for about five years before they parted ways.

More than two decades down the road, the woman is still using the man’s name, never mind that they were not even officially married and the man is now married to another woman officially. How do you explain this, if it is not lack of self-esteem?”

Judith Babirye, a gospel musician, says: “As an artiste, I dropped my husband’s name because my maiden name is my brand and stage name. I do not care whether I use my ex-husband’s name or not. It is you the public that cares so much.”

Justin Kasule Lumumba, the state minister for urban development, does not agree with dropping an ex-husband’s name.

“It is beneficial to keep your spouse’s name rather than make a name change on everything like your passport, legal documents and investments. It is costly to have changes made on all documents. You can easily lose identity,” she reasons.

“It also hurts when you drop the name and the people keep referring to you as the-wife-of so-and-so.” Penny Naggayi was forced to drop her ex-husband’s name because of her bitter experience with him. His name, she says, would evoke sad memories.

“I did not see any value in using a cheat’s name because it was not going to take me anywhere and it could even scare away potential suitors,” she argues.

Solome Nakaweesi Kimbugwe, a women rights activist, says some women decide to carry on with their ex-husband’s name because of the children, personal preferences and identity.

“It is a burden to explain to children who share your husband’s last name why you divorced and are no longer called Mrs. It is also not easy to lose a lot of the recognition you worked very hard to build under the marital name,” she says.

However, Kimbugwe agrees with women who have been hurt by their ex-husbands and want nothing to do with their name.
“It shows they have put an end to trauma and have opened a new page in their lives,” she says.

“I could not keep his name after we separated. The experience was so painful. He was battering me, cheating on me, and subjecting me to psychological torture, so why continue to torture my soul with his name?” argues Gloria Kasabiti, a mother of three, who called it quits and reverted to her maiden name immediately after.

Responding to Kimbugwe’s argument, Kasabiti says with or without a man, a woman has an identity.

“My identity does not come from a man! The whole thing portrays women as individuals who do not believe in themselves; they feel incomplete without the man! Why do I have to live in someone else’s shadow? We come together as companions and I take on your name because I cherish you, we are one body, one soul, but why stick to it when we have fallen out?

And what if I get another man? Does he keep referring to me by my ex-husband’s name?” she asks.

Kasabiti says it is wise to tell the children why you have separated from their father. “If they can understand why you separated, why can’t they understand why you are not using their father’s name?” she asks.

“And on the issue of the legal documents, when you took on the man’s name, didn’t you have any legal documents in your maiden names such as your academic papers? What happened to them? And aren’t there legal provisions to denounce a name and take on another one or revert to the former name if you have good reason.

I think it is status issue; lack of self-confidence; some women believe they cannot survive without a man’s name tagged onto theirs.”

Joan Katumba, a businesswoman, does not agree with dropping the name. “I divorced five years ago, but I still use my ex’s name.

Not that I am still interested in him, but because I forgave him. He got married again and his current wife uses his name.

When we got married, I got a new name and it is not easy to explain to children why you are no longer using their father’s name. It is like adding salt to a wound if you change that name,” Katumba says.

But there are those who use the name because they cannot avoid it. The former vice-president, Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, says when she got married, people started addressing her by her husband’s name, but she never introduced herself as Mrs. “Do not disturb me again about such issues. I am now a village woman,” she responds.

After Jackie Ouma lost her husband, her in-laws denied her access to her late husband’s property because she had changed her name. Their argument was that she had moved on with another man and wanted to ‘steal’ their brother’s property.

But Jackie’s reason to drop the name was that she did not want Ouma’s future wife to feel like she was trying to hold on to her husband.

Christopher Jjingo, a lawyer, argues that there is no law that compels a woman to take on her husband’s name after marriage.

He, however, says if a woman remarries, she can drop her exhusband’sname and use her current husband’s name. But if she is comfortable with her exhusband’s name, she can continue using it because there are no legal implications.

However, Pastor Mark Kigozi says marriage was not designed for divorce, but if a couple insists on divorce, a woman should keep her husband’s name to remind her that she was once married.

“If people know you as a married woman, with it comes prestige,” he says.

Kigozi adds that some women have retain their ex-husband’s name to keep associated to the status of their ex-husbands.

If a woman was hurt in her past marriage, he says, carrying on her ex’s name should be the last thing on her mind.
Why do you think some women hold onto their ex-husband’s name long after they have separated?

What is in a man’s name?

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