Flemish newborns continue to carry their father's surname

Since June 2014, parents in Belgium have been free to choose to assign either or both of their surnames to their children. Ten years later, more than 80 per cent of children still receive only their father's name. In Flanders, the figure is as high as 85 per cent, according to the federal government's Justice Department.

On 9 May 2014, a law was passed in Belgium that introduced equality between men and women when naming their child or adoptee. Since June, they can choose whether to give their children either surnames, or both (and in any order). The only condition is that the choice applies to all children they have, so siblings cannot be given different surnames. Ten years later, most Belgian children are still given only the father's surname, although that proportion is declining slightly.

Last year, only the father's surname was given in 81.3 per cent of cases in Belgium, compared to 84.3 per cent in 2019. In Flanders, this was the case for 85.1 per cent of newborns. In Wallonia, it was 79 per cent, and in Brussels 74.1 per cent. The mother's surname was chosen in 7.4 per cent of cases in Belgium (up from 5.7 per cent in 2019), and a double surname (father/mother/co-parent) in 7 per cent of cases, compared to 5.1 per cent in 2019. 

The choice for only the mother's surname is equally high in the three regions. By contrast, double surnames are chosen more than twice as often in Brussels and Wallonia as in Flanders, where it happened in 4.3 per cent of cases in 2023. In Wallonia, for example, it happened in more than one in 10 birth certificates. It is notable, however, that Flemish people more often than elsewhere in the country choose to put the mother's name first in the case of a double surname. That happened in 29.8 per cent of cases in 2023, compared to 19.1 per cent in Brussels and 13.3 per cent in Wallonia. 

The government department further adds that the parents of 7,490 children born before 1 June 2014, before the law came into force, have changed the surname of their offspring.



#FlandersNewsService | a baby plays with a ball © BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ


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