Costa Rica has recently enacted a progressive legal change, allowing people over 18 years of age to modify the order of their last names. This groundbreaking reform eliminates the long-standing obligation to prioritize the father’s last name, offering individuals the autonomy to choose their preferred sequence.
In contrast to practices in the United States and other countries, Costa Ricans traditionally bear two last names, with the father’s surname conventionally taking precedence over the mother’s surname.
The discussion centered around Article 49 of the Civil Code, which formerly dictated that a person’s name should consist of one or two words as a first name, “followed by the first surname of the father and the first surname of the mother, in that order.” The crucial phrase “in that order” has been removed, marking a significant departure from tradition.
The Constitutional Chamber scrutinized this article and found it to be in violation of the principle of equality before the law, as well as national and international legislation aimed at eradicating discrimination against women.
A majority of constitutional judges reasoned that mandating the order of surnames in favor of men lacked reasonable and objective foundations. Instead, it originated from customary practices rooted in a patriarchal and outdated view of the family.
“The establishment of the order of surnames in favor of the man as the only option is not based on reasonable and objective parameters, but rather finds its genesis in customary practices based on a patriarchal and anachronistic conception of the family, which discriminates against women and today is incompatible with the law of the Constitution,” the judicial entity revealed.
Furthermore, the magistrates concluded that enforcing a predetermined order of surnames in favor of men as the exclusive option curtailed the right to the free development of personality in connection with the right to identity.
However, the Court clarified that this progressive measure does not extend to same-sex couples, minors, and individuals with only the mother’s surname. In these three scenarios, individuals would need to initiate new judicial consultations to effect the desired change.