Over half of Czechs believe all women should take an "-ova" surname

The protection of the Czech language and respect for traditional values are the most common arguments for insisting on the gender inflection of surnames

Katrina Modrá

Written by Katrina Modrá Published on 07.10.2019 12:10:35 (updated on 07.10.2019) Reading time: 3 minutes

Prague, Oct 7 (CTK) – Most Czechs would like the gender inflection of female surnames to remain obligatory but believe that women with surnames of foreign origin should be able to decide on their own, a STEM/MARK poll released by daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) today showed.

The government recently rejected a proposal under which Czech women could choose whether to use the traditional, gender inflected form of their family name with the ending “-ova” (e.g. Jana Novakova) or not (Jana Novak). However, the Pirate MPs want to propose this to the Chamber of Deputies and most of the other lawmakers seem to support their view, MfD writes.

“I think that women have the right to make the decision themselves. I, therefore, want to cancel this duty,” Pirate MP Ondrej Profant told the paper.

At present, Czech legislation allows a woman to accept the family name of her husband without the added “-ova” only if she or her husband have foreign citizenship, or if the couple plans to live abroad. Life abroad is an argument often used to circumvent the rule. Clerks can hardly prove whether the husband and wife will really move abroad after marriage or whether they say this merely as an excuse for not respecting gender inflection.

Doorbells of a residential house in Brno, Czech Republic / Wikipedia commons @Petr Smerkl CC-BY-SA-3.0

An MfD survey among MPs indicated that most of them would let women choose whether to use the traditional gender form of the surname or not. ANO MPs mostly supported the free choice, while the Communists (KSCM), Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) MPs were against it. Social Democrat (CSSD) leader Jan Hamacek said he would let each woman make her own choice.

In September, CSSD spokeswoman Barbora Kalatova got married and changed her name to Barbora Gavenda.

The protection of the Czech language and respect for traditional values are the most common arguments for insisting on the gender inflection of surnames.

Linguist Marketa Pravdova said she believes it will take a few decades for the Czech language to get used to female surnames that are not gender inflected.

On the contrary, some feminists welcome the possible canceling of gender inflection. The “-ova” ending is an expression of the fact that the man considers the woman his possession, feminists argue.

According to the STEM/MARK poll, 61 percent of Czechs (64 percent of men and 57 percent of women) insist on the gender inflection of surnames, 33 percent say a woman herself should make the decision and 7 percent say the gender inflection should be canceled. At the same time, 61 percent would let women with a surname of foreign origin decide on whether to use the ending “-ova” or not, 24 percent would not allow gender inflection of such surnames at all, and 15 percent insist on the variant with “-ova” in these cases.

“Men support gender inflection more resolutely, while women are more benevolent and allow for freedom of choice more often,” analyst David Fric, from STEM/MARK, told MfD.

Some well-known Czech women use the surname without “-ova”: sport shooter Katerina Emmons married an American, politician Katerina Jacques married a Frenchman, singer and moderator Emma Smetana lived in France.

The STEM/MARK poll also asked whether Czech women want to replace their maiden name with the family name of their husband after marriage or not.

A vast majority of Czechs, irrespective of age or gender, consider the wife’s usage of the husband’s surname the best solution. The most common reason for this is practical administrative affairs, such as avoiding misunderstanding at state offices, in hospital, in the general public, or fewer uncertainties with the surname of possible children, rather than tradition.


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