Women's (no) Naming Right Under the Shadow of Patronymy: A Study of Law and Social Change in Taiwan

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Chao-ju CHEN , College of Law, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Yen-Wen PENG , National Sun Yat-sen University, Taiwan
Patronymy is part of the cultural, social and legal mechanism of male supremacy, and a denial of women’s equal right to name the child. In Taiwan, patronymy is a long-lasting tradition reflected in and constituted by the law, as the old children’s surname law mandated that, with limited exceptions, all children shall assume their fathers' surname. The law was revised in 2007, which stipulates that children’s surname shall be decide through parental agreement. This legislation is considered a hard-win success for women’s equal rights, but the practices of it turned out to be a disappointment. Since the law came into effect, approximately only 1.54% of all newborns were given the mother’s surname through parental agreement. Does this fact suggest that people’s attitude toward surnaming remain unchanged irrespective of the change of law? Can legal reform promote women’s naming right, or does it mostly function to reinforce patronymy?

        We use data from the 2002 and 2012 Taiwan Social Change Survey to answer these questions. Our study find that significant changes have occurred in people’s attitudes toward children’s surnaming. The change in people’s attitudes, however, does not translate into the change of actions. We have identified double gaps -- gap between people’s attitude in general and behavior intention, and gap between behavior intention and actual action taken. We also notice gender, martial and parental status, and gender equality consciousness differences in people’s attitude, and identify the profile of people who might benefit from the new children’s surname law. Our study leads to the conclusion that a liberal children’s surname law might be accompanied by a positive change in people’s attitude toward children’s surnaming, but cannot actively promote women’s equal right to name the child.