Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Thursday that women need not get their name changed on their passports once they get married.
Modi was addressing the 50th year celebrations of IMC Ladies Wing in Mumbai when he said, “Women do not have to submit their marriage or divorce certificate for a passport. It will be their choice on using either their father or mother’s names in the document.”
The announcement comes at a time when several women have spoken out about discriminatory and humiliating treatment at passport offices.
Women are routinely asked to give husband’s name or father’s name, submit marriage certificates, and even provide ‘divorce deeds’ in case they have legally separated from their husbands.
In July last year, Priyanka Gupta, a single mother, had launched an online petition on Change.org after her daughter's application for a passport was denied - because they did not want the name of the father on the document.
The petition got the attention of Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who urged External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to change the rules. “The current guidelines for passports warrant the name of the father as a mandatory requirement. The Delhi High Court in May 2016 stated that it was not essential to mention the father's name if the mother and child so desired. Statistics reveal that number of single parents in the country is increasing both by way of conscious decision or by breakdown of marriages."
While a marriage certificate or divorce certificate has not been mandatory since the Ministry of External Affairs changed passport rules in December last year, Modi’s re-iteration still comes as a welcome move, as several passport officials still insist on outdated norms before issuing the document.