Icelanders to choose own names?

13.10.2020 - 14:15
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Iceland’s justice minister proposes disbanding the controversial human naming committee.

Iceland’s controversial human naming committee (Mannanafnanefnd), and its list of approved names parents must choose from, will disappear if a new bill proposed by Minister for Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir passes into law.

Supporters of the bill say it is a human right for people to have control of their own names and to be able to name their children as they wish, and that experience in other countries shows people can be trusted to take good decisions. Opponents say Icelanders are proud of their centuries-old naming traditions and want to preserve them—noting that the committee already has the power to grant exceptions. The committee’s decisions are sometimes criticised for appearing inconsistent and for taking a long time, however. 

“I, and others, have noticed this great trend towards viewing the human naming committee as some sort of spokesman for the law,” says naming chairman Aðalsteinn Hákonarson, who supports disbanding his own committee. “The justice minister was in an interview this morning where she said people have been at loggerheads with the naming committee, but it’s actually the laws—the laws that Alþingi passed. Alþingi, where she herself sits.” 

Aðalsteinn says he is not concerned that libralising the law would lead to parents choosing inappropriate names for their children. Under the bill, Þjóðskrá Íslands (Registers Iceland) would retain the right to deny names deemed inapprpriate or damaging.

Ásdís Rán is a capaigner for a change in the law: “We had a very difficult upbringing and are in the situation that, as things stand, we don’t want to be named after either one of our parents,” she explains. “I just think it’s so weird. It’s so strange: why is the State meddling in it at all?”

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Alexander Elliott
Project manager
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