Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Foundation protests surname ruling

By Debbu Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Awakening Foundation yesterday claimed the Ministry of the Interior's limitation on the amendments to the Statue of Names (姓名條例) was interfering with the execution of the amendments, which allow divorced women to apply to change their children's surnames without their ex-husband's consent.

The ministry, however, said that both parents' agreements are required.

The foundation said that after the announcement of the amendments on June 25 this year, many divorced mothers were eager to have their children's surnames changed, transfer them to other schools and start a new life.

But when these women went to their local household registration offices, they were told that the father's agreement was a must and had their applications rejected.

Article 6 of the amended statue says that "underage children whose parents are divorced, and whose surnames are different from the parent who is exercising the parental rights" can apply to have their names changed.

Article 10 adds that either the person concerned or the person's legal guardian can apply for such a change. There is no requirement of agreement from both parents to be found anywhere in the statute.

The interior ministry, however, released an administrative document on June 27 instructing local household registration offices to demand written agreements from both divorced parents if an underage child applies for a surname change.

"The regulations have been passed, and the household registration staff should do their work by the law," said lawyer Chang Chu-fang (張菊芳), the foundation's vice president.

"The interior ministry's demand for the written agreements from both parents are inconsiderate of the single mothers' life and social experiences since a lot of them have violent or unreasonable former husbands," said lawyer Hsu Hsiu-wen (許秀雯), another member of the foundation's board.

Hsu questioned the ministry's decision to give a husband with violent tendencies the privilege of denying his children's wish to change their surname.

Yesterday, divorced mothers came out to share their painful experiences of trying to change their children's last name.

One mother, joined by her son, said that when she found out about the new regulations, she immediately asked the authorities about the application process. However, the interior ministry official in charge told her that because her custody was not permanent, her ex-husband's agreement was required.

She said that it was too difficult to obtain such an agreement because her ex-husband was convicted for attempting to kill her and she was not willing to risk her current marriage with the issue.

Her 9-year-old son also expressed the desire to have his last name changed, but said he did not know why he could not.

The mother questioned why her son could not decide whose surname he wanted, but could have it decided by a man who abandoned him at birth and did not even call once in nine years.

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