RECOMMENDATION 1271 (1995)1 on discrimination
between men and women in the choice of a surname and in the passing on of parents'
surnames to children
1.The Assembly recalls that a name is an element which determines the identity of
individuals and that, for this reason, the choice of name is a matter of considerable
importance. Continued discrimination between men and women in this area is therefore
2.Many countries have introduced legislative reforms in recent decades with the aim of
gradually achieving equality between the sexes in respect of the legal system governing
surnames. Other countries have, however, retained the traditional legal systems based on
criteria which are often doubly discriminatory: discriminatory between mother and father
and discriminatory in terms of whether the child is born in or out of wedlock.
Accordingly, a determined effort needs to be made to ensure that the legislation of all
Council of Europe member states is quickly brought into line with the major principles of
3.The Assembly points out that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe
adopted a very explicit resolution in 1978 (Resolution (78) 37), which recommended, inter
alia, that member states should eliminate all discrimination between men and women in the
legal system governing surnames. It further points out that many Council of Europe member
states have ratified the United Nations convention of 18 December 1979, Article 16 of
which stipulates that all signatory states should take the necessary measures to eliminate
all sexist provisions in respect of the right to choose a family name.
4.The Assembly is therefore surprised that no follow-up action has been taken by some
Council of Europe member states on the Committee of Ministers' 1978 resolution. It is also
surprised that those member states which are signatories to the international convention
initiated by the United Nations in 1979 have not fulfilled their commitments.
5.Consequently, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers of the Council
of Europe identify those member states which retain sexist discrimination and ask them to
take the appropriate measures to:
i.implement strict equality between mother and father in the passing on of a surname to
ii.ensure strict equality in the event of marriage with regard to the choice of a
common surname for both marriage partners;
iii.eliminate all discrimination in the legal system for conferring a surname between
children born in and out of wedlock.
6.The Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers ask each member state
which is a signatory to the 1979 United Nations convention and which has not brought its
legislation into line to specify whether it plans to do so, and if so, when and how.
1. Assembly debate on 28 April 1995 (16th Sitting) (see Doc. 7259,
report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, rapporteurs: Mrs Err and Mr
Text adopted by the Assembly on 28 April 1995 (16th Sitting).