Afghan women claiming the right to have their names used in public

Afghan women in Bagh-e-Babur, Kabul, Afghanistan

Name taboos exist or have existed in many cultures. In Afghanistan it is still the rule to not use the personal names of women in public. Rather they are designated by different kinship terms meaning “my wife”, “aunt”, etc.

Originally, name taboos were a protection against the misuse of names, which were believed to have magical powers and in many societies today, addressing someone by his personal name is still considered impolite.

However, in this modern age, Afghan women experience this taboo as a denial of their identities, reducing them to be nameless wives and mothers. As they strive to play an equal part in society, claiming the right to use their names as they see fit, is one step towards that goal.

A social media campaign to change this custom has been percolating in recent weeks, initiated by young women. The campaign comes with a hashtag in local languages that addresses the core of the issue and translates as #WhereIsMyName.

The activists’ aim is both to challenge women to reclaim their most basic identity, and to break the deep-rooted taboo that prevents men from mentioning their female relatives’ names in public.