Wed, Nov 03, 2004 - Page 7 News List

French women now able to pass name to offspring

THE GUARDIAN , PARIS

French women won a small but significant victory over the mighty forces of Gallic bureaucracy on Monday with the publication of an amendment allowing children to bear their mothers' surnames.

Until now, under a law that like so many dates back to Napoleon, parents have had to pass on the name of the father. From January, they will be able to give "either the name of the father, or the name of the mother, or the two surnames [in either order]."

The law still requires that the surname chosen for the first child of a couple must also be given to all following offspring. And it stipulates that in the event of the parents being unable to agree, "the name of the father will prevail."

The amendment follows an earlier relaxation of France's strict naming laws. In 1993, the much-loathed official list of acceptable first names was scrapped, although public prosecutors can still intervene -- at the request of anyone who makes a complaint -- if the chosen name is thought likely to prove "contrary to the interests of the infant."

French parents have since succeeded in giving their children such names as Ratatouille, Michel-Jacquesson, Lambada and even Cletoris.

A judge in Besancon recently rejected Zebulon -- which, as well as recalling the founder of one of the 12 tribes of Israel, is the French equivalent of Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout -- on the grounds that "its televisual connotations are manifestly likely to provoke sarcasm and mockery from which the child will not cease to suffer."

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