Name game

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Choosing your child's first name is very usual. But it is increasingly accepted to choose the family name as well. This option is becoming more common in Europe and has been legal in Luxembourg since a 2006 law but is still relatively marginal today.

Two first names and two surnames are common in Portugal ‒ even the usual minimum ‒ but not in Luxembourg. Until 2006, children could only be registered with the father's surname ‒ a limitation that violated the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which eventually forced Luxembourg to change the law.

Laura gave birth to a baby girl last month. It was her partner who went to the registry office to register the birth. They discussed about what name they want to choose, as it is the case among all couples, but Laura did not realise that the family name could also be a choice for the little family. "I didn't even ask myself the question, everyone around me has their father's name, I didn't even realise that it could be an option", says the young Luxembourgish mother, who expected their child to be named after their father. The father, David, is Portuguese. For him, it's only natural to have both parents' surnames: "I suggested that the child should have her name, followed by mine. For me it's a normal thing, it is our child. When she is older, she can use only one name, or both, as she wishes."

As far as figures exist, neither the Luxembourg Civil Registry nor the STATEC could transmit recent ones on the choice of surnames for Luxembourg. We only know that in 2016, 65,747 children were born in Luxembourg after May 1, 2006 and after the legal inclusion of the right for parents to choose their child's name: using only the names of the first parent, the second parent or both parents. This was also a victory for single-parent families who did not fit into the "mum/dad" box anyway, so the choice is all the more important for these families. Among these births, 39,888 children (60.67 per cent) were registered under the father's name, which represents most children born in Luxembourg. While 5,307 children (8.07 per cent) were registered under the mother's name, 2,037 children (3.10 per cent) were registered under both the father's and mother's names, 637 children (0.97 per cent) were registered under both the mother's and father's names. While the law allows different options, the "tradition" of allocating only the father's name persists in most cases.

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