Kyrgyzstan court allows ‘matronymics’ in a surprise nod to women’s rights

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Kyrgyzstan’s Constitutional Court has ruled that adults can choose to use middle names based on the name of their mother rather than their father, in a surprise nod to gender equality in traditionally patriarchal Central Asia.

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As a legacy of the Russian empire and Soviet era, most people in Kyrgyzstan use Russian-style patronymics: middle names derived from the name of their father.

But activist Altyn Kapalova challenged that rule in court and kept appealing until she reached the highest court, which last week ruled partly in her favor, she wrote on Facebook.

The court ruled that children should still be given patronymics from birth to protect them from harassment and bullying. But citizens over the age of 18 can choose to swap the patronymic for a matronymic based on the name of the mother.

Kapalova, who runs a museum of feminist art, said she would seek further legal changes in the predominantly Muslim nation of 7 million to ensure a child can have a matronymic from birth.

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