How the media misinterpreted & misreported the PM’s statements on Passports

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The provision for retaining the maiden name in passport always existed. While the PM was referring to the rule about single parents, the media understood it as the maiden name.

In the last two days, there have been numerous stories written about how women can now have their maiden name in the passport and not change it after marriage.  Newspapers & various online media outlets picked up from the Prime Minister’s speech on the occasion of 50th year celebrations of Indian Merchant Chamber Ladies Wing. A closer analysis of what the PM said and how it was interpreted by the media reveals that it is a classic case of misreporting and trying to manufacture something that always existed.

What did the PM really say?

The Prime Minister said the following with respect to passport in his speech.

Passport के नियमों में भी एक बड़ा महत्वरपूर्ण बदलाव किया गया है; अब महिला को अपनी शादी का या तलाक का certificate देना जरूरी नहीं होगा। ये उसकी इच्छाै पर होगा कि वो Passport में अपने पिता का नाम लिखवाए या फिर मां का।

PM’s statements on Passports (2)

The PM made the following two statements with respect to passport.

  • It is not mandatory for a woman to submit her marriage certificate or divorce decree while applying for passport
  • A woman can choose whether the name in the passport should be of her mother or the father and not both parents.

Let us examine both the statements.

Submission of Certificates no more mandatory

The government in December 2016 had announced new passport rules. Among other things, the new rules include the following

  • No affidavit or Marriage Certificate required for married applicants:Married applicants would not be required to provide Annexure K or any marriage certificate.
  • Name of Spouse not required for separated/divorced applicants:The Passport application form does not require the applicant to provide the name of her/his spouse in case of separated or divorced persons. Such applicants for passports would not be required to provide even the Divorce Decree.

Hence this statement of the PM is true that the current government has simplified the passport rules and removed the mandatory rule about submission of marriage certificate or a divorce decree. This is not just for a woman, but is equally applicable to a man.

Did the PM say anything about the maiden name?

The second statement of the Prime Minister was about a woman’s choice of having her mother’s or father’s name in the passport. The statement had nothing to do with retaining the maiden name. In fact, the PM’s statement was about another change in the rules made in December 2016. The change was made to make it easy for single parents to obtain passports for their children. Unlike earlier, the passport application form now requires the applicant to provide the name of father or mother or legal guardian, i.e., only one parent and not both. This would enable single parents to apply for passports for their children and to also issue passports where the name of either the father or the mother is not required to be printed at the request of the applicant. Earlier, it was mandatory to mention both the father’s & mother’s name in the passport application. Again, this rule is not just for a woman, but for any single parent.

PM’s statements on Passports (1)

 What about the Maiden name then?

Nothing changed with respect to the maiden name. A woman always had the choice to retain her maiden name or change it after marriage in the passport. She has to submit relevant proof in case of a change in name. Many women choose to retain their maiden name even after marriage and their passports reflect the same.

For a married woman/man, it is mandatory to fill in the name of the spouse in the passport application though it is not mandatory to submit the marriage certificate.

Misinterpreted & Misreported

The statements made by the PM are equally applicable to a woman as well as a man as per the new passport rules. Most media houses misinterpreted the PM’s second statement and reported as if he was referring to the woman’s maiden name in the passport. They went to the extent of saying that this is something new and has not existed before. The media not only misinterpreted but also misreported the PM’s speech.

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