The refusal of courts in Turkey to allow a woman to use her maiden name was a breach of her human rights, an international court has ruled.
Bahar Leventoğlu, from Izmir, married her husband Atila Abdulkadiroğlu in 1996 but wanted to keep her maiden name as she was already established under this name in her professional and academic life.
However, she was unable to do so as under the country’s Civil Code, married women are forbidden from using their maiden names alone – although they are allowed to combine their maiden names with their husband’s surnames.
Mrs Leventoğlu Abdulkadiroğlu began legal proceedings in Izmir seeking permission to use only her maiden name but her application was rejected on the basis of the Civil Code. She appealed but the original judgement was upheld. The women applied to reopen the proceedings but this request was also rejected.
Mrs Leventoğlu Abdulkadiroğlu then applied to the European Court of Human Rights. She claimed that the restrictions amounted to sexual discrimination as they do not apply to men. They had, she argued, breached her rights under articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 governs “respect for private and family life” and article 14 prohibits discrimination.
The Court considered material submitted by the Turkish government but concluded that:
“…the Court considers that the Government have not put forward any facts or arguments capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion in the present case. Having regard to its case-law on the subject, the Court considers that there has been a violation of Article 14 of the Convention in conjunction with Article 8.”
Mrs Leventoğlu Abdulkadiroğlu was not awarded compensation – legally termed ‘just satisfaction’ – as she had not applied for this.
Photo of Izmir by Tarik Gandur via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence