The European Court of Human rights held that a Turkish Law preventing married women from keeping their own surname after marriage is unlawful discrimination on the basis of sex. As required under Turkish law, upon marriage Ms. Unal Tekeli took her husband’s last name. She continued to use her maiden name in her professional life and put it in front of her legal surname, but could not use her maiden name in official documents. She brought suit in the Turkish Courts requesting that she be able to use her maiden name and that the law was discriminatory, but her case was dismissed both at the trial court and upon appeal. After being dismissed, she brought suit in the European Court of Human Rights, alleging discrimination. The Court first determined that differential treatment did exist because under the law, married men were treated differently from married women. Next, it found that no objective and reasonable justification existed for such differential treatment. It acknowledged that Turkey has a goal of preserving the family unit, but noted that this goal was not defeated by allowing women to keep their surnames. Thus, preserving the family unit was not a justification for the unequal treatment of married men and married women. The Court held that the difference in treatment based on sex violated international law.
Unal Tekeli v. Turkey
European Court of Human Rights