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NEW LAW WOULD HELP WOMEN WHO DON'T WANT SURNAME ENDING

Opting out of 'ová'

SLOVAK women could soon find it easier to have a last name that does not end in -ová.
The Interior Ministry is considering a change to the law on birth, death and marriage registrations that would let Slovak women choose whether or not to have a surname with the traditional grammatical ending.

SLOVAK women could soon find it easier to have a last name that does not end in -ová.

The Interior Ministry is considering a change to the law on birth, death and marriage registrations that would let Slovak women choose whether or not to have a surname with the traditional grammatical ending.

Women of other nationalities living here can register a surname without the Slovak -ová at the end, but a Slovak woman has to go through a complicated process and pay for an official certificate that proves her new surname.

"Slovak women often complain to registry officers that they are discriminated against compared to women of other nationalities, because they have to waste their time and money arranging various certificates and issuing new documents," said Alena Koišová, a ministry spokesperson. "The Interior Ministry thinks these complaints are justified."

Under Slovak grammar conventions, women's surnames are different from men's. If the name is an adjective (for example, Drobný), the female equivalent ends with an 'á' (Drobná). If the name is a noun, (Novák), the female version takes the "ová" ending (Nováková).

More women have been applying for documents to leave the Slovak ending out of their names since Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, Koišová told The Slovak Spectator. The fact that they have different last names than their husbands and sons can cause problems for women living in other countries.

"Slovak women must explain to state administration offices why they and their daughters have different surnames than their husbands and sons," she said. "And sometimes when an unmarried Slovak mother has a son, the foreign administration issues his birth documents with a surname with a Slovak female ending - for example, Martin Nováková."

Under the register law passed in 1994, female Slovak citizens of other nationalities can register a surname without the traditional Slovak suffix.

But a Slovak woman must go through a more complicated process to use a name without -ová, Koišová said.

The woman's name still carries the ending in the official register, so if she does not want to use -ová, she must apply for a new birth or marriage certificate without the ending.

There is a fee for the certificate - which everyone must pay when they get married or change their last name for other reasons - and that certificate can be used to get other official identification and documents (such as passports) with the new last name.

The proposed changes have caught the attention of Gizella Szabómihály. Not only is she a linguist - Szabómihály is president of the Gramma Association, which deals with research and development of Hungarian and other languages in Slovakia - she also has first-hand experience with the surname issue.

She signs her name as "Gizella Szabómihályová" in Slovak publications, and "Gizella Szabómihály" in Hungarian and foreign publications. Even her Slovak documents bear two different versions of her name.

"My official documents contain the -ová form of my surname," she said. "I did not request a new birth certificate without the -ová ending, but after that, I requested a new identification card and other documents (such as a driver's licence) with the new form of my surname. And it took up a lot of time."

Izabela Komjáti spent most of her life as Izabela Komjátiová. But last year, the ethnic Hungarian decided to drop the Slovak -ová.

"People constantly pronounced my surname with mistakes," said Komjáti, a 30-year-old fashion designer. "Mostly they did not make mistakes with the -ová, but they were not able to say the part that came before -ová correctly. So I decided to have my surname without -ová in order to help people remember how to say my name correctly."

Her newly ová-less last name has not met with much confusion, because people recognise that her surname is not Slovak, she said. (But to her surprise, many people assume she is married to an Italian.)

Komjáti did not have to go through a lot of effort to change her surname, because of her Hungarian ethnicity. But she agrees that all women should have the option.

"I think that it is up to each person, whether she wants to choose a surname with or without -ová," she said. "And if people who live in Slovakia have a non-Slovak name, it is better not to have the 'ová' ending."

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