Or, pretty much–Katie Hopkins is turning in her sun-bed as the City of Buenos Aires’ 2014 code reform relaxes its restrictions on naming regulations for new babies.
Until last year, naming law stated that given names must come from an approved register of 9,807 names. Anything else would require special clearance from the Civil Register authorities on appeal, and the name would only be added to the register after being cleared on three separate occasions.
Now, however, they’re game for anything provided it isn’t offensive, and doesn’t “damage the honor” of the child. Ana Lávaque, Director General of the city’s Civil Register, has stated:
“So long as it isn’t offensive or grotesque, strange though it may be, we won’t demand any special procedure. It’s about accepting paternal liberty when it comes to choosing a child’s name, which sometimes involves religious or other factors- things for which you can’t demand explanations”.
A nice change from Dr. Angel Hernan Lapieza’s comment back in 1985 on the idea that people’s taste in names might legitimately diverge from that of the government: The erstwhile registry director lamented that ”people keep mixing democracy with doing whatever you want”. Yeah, jeez Cosette, your parents were so politically confused.
The practice of registering baby names began in the 1880s as a way of assimilating immigrants into Argentine society; it was then formalized by Juan Perón in 1952, when it apparently became illegal to choose anything “extravagant, ridiculous, contrary to Argentine customs or ideology or could cause confusion about a person’s sex”. Back then, restrictions on non-registered names tended to exclude first names that sounded like last names, and foreign names that couldn’t be “castellanoized”. So, for example, Spanish immigrants who might want to name their son after everyone’s favorite swing-era sweetheart, Frank Sinatra, might instead be forced to plump for Franco.
This follows a law passed last year in Rio Grande, Rosario, after one promethean father got clearance to name his kid after football icon Messi. The name was then hastily banned, to prevent, so authorities said, a “mess of confusion”. Or, you know, a confusion of Messi. Also, in a telling reflection of cult figure hierarchy here in Argentina, it’s still totally legit to call your kid Jesús.
The reform seems to be the formalization of an increasingly lax practice of naming-regulation, which last year added around 100 more names onto the official register. The change is part of recent reforms which have seen Argentina slowly edging away from more strict orthodox legislation: The 2010 legalization of same-sex marriage, for example, or the 2011 Gender Identity Law which allowed transgender citizens to legally change their gender without the permission of a judge or doctor. Little by little, in some areas at least, the country is beginning to adjust its legal system such that it more accurately accounts for the identity of its population, which is something to be celebrated with two fingers up to Lapeiza and his dystopian fear mongering.
One of the results has been a burgeoning popularity in the names Onur and Sherezade, characters from “One Thousand and One Nights”, the folk-talk compilation which has seen increasing popularity in Argentina after its television serialization.
There is, however, a long way to go. The ongoing debate surrounding the legal status of abortion in Argentina–currently illegal except in case of rape or threat to a woman’s life–remains on the shelf. In early March, Health Minister Daniel Gollán announced that “we are going to promote a mature debate about abortion with all the sectors of society”, a laudable suggestion that was shut down that same afternoon by Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández, who assured us that the abortion debate “is not in the government’s agenda”.