Czech women might finally be allowed to decide whether or not to drop the ending –ová from their surname. The Lower House’s Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development has recommended the lower house to change the amendment to the law on birth registers, names and surnames, allowing women to have their say in the matter, despite the government’s disapproving stand.
Nováková, Vomáčková or Dušková: most Czech female surnames typically end with the suffix –ová, which denotes the grammatical gender. However, there has been an increasing trend among Czech women to ditch the ending and use the masculine form of their surname. At the moment, Czech legislation only allows women to drop the suffix –ová if they are foreign citizens or have a foreign nationality, if they live with a foreigner or have temporary residence in a foreign country.
Most Czech linguists, including Karel Oliva, agree with the current practice, arguing that the ending-ová is an essential part of Czech grammar.
“Compared to English, the structure of the Czech sentence is different. We don’t distinguish such categories such as sentential subject or sentential object by their position in a sentence, but by case endings.
“If we do not attach something like –ová or a similar suffix to Czech women’s names, we will be unable to express the case but also to express the gender.
“If we don’t add it, it will seem like the name has no case and that it is a masculine name. That obviously brings up some discrepancies in communication.”
Despite the logic of linguistics, a growing number of Czech women prefer to use the masculine form of their surname, says Pirate Party MP Ondřej Profant. That’s why he proposed an amendment to the bill on birth registers, names and surnames, which would allow women to have their say in the matter.
“We have carried out our own survey and for example at the registry office in Prague 13, some 28 percent of women asked for the masculine form of their surname. A similar trend can also be observed outside the capital. For instance in Břeclav, it was 11 percent.
“This is not an insignificant number and it shows that there is a big group of women who regard this as a problem. And I don’t really care why it is a problem for them. I just want them to have an option to make their own choice.”
The change has been supported by the government’s Commissioner for Human Right, Helena Válková. This week, the Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development recommended the lower house to go ahead with the change, giving women the right to make their own decision about their surname.
The lower house is likely to vote on the proposed amendment at the end of May or beginning of July. If it is approved, it could come into effect in the middle of next year.
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