Belgians to get double-barrelled names

It looks like most Belgians will in future have two surnames. On Tuesday the Justice select committee of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives approved draft legislation that opens the way for children to be endowed with the surname of both their father and mother.

Justice Minister Annemie Turtelboom initially tabled legislation allowing parents free choice. At the last minute Christian democrat lawmakers got cold feet and a more modest change was adopted.

The Christian democrat lawmakers were concerned that a wealth of options would create chaos and backed the idea of giving children the surname of father followed by that of the mother unless parents make a different choice. A compromise was then worked out allowing four different options: the parents’ surnames in the order of their choice, the father's name or the mother's name. If the proposal receives the backing of a majority in a plenary session of parliament the surname of Belgian children will in future consist of the surname of the father followed by that of the mother. The other options – mother’s surname first, father’s or mother’s name only -will be available on request.

Under the proposal parents will also be able to change the current names of all their underage children.