Draft legislation was first written in the 1970s, but had been block by the Senate until a court ruling this week
After decades of campaigns mounted by feminist groups in the country, the Constitutional Court of Italy has finally ruled in favour of mothers in married couples finally having the right to give their surname to their children.
Until now, Italian birth registry laws have dictated that all children born of wedded couples take their father’s name, with campaigners celebrating the landmark ruling in what has been a long and heated political battle to overturn.
“The court has declared the unlawfulness of rules providing for the automatic attribution of the paternal surname to legitimate children, when the parents wish otherwise,” the court ruled earlier this week.
A fresh case had been referred to the court after an Italian-Brazilian couple living in Genoa had attempted to register this son with both of their names. The practice, a long-standing tradition in Spain and most of South America, has also found favour among younger couples in the developed world.
The couple’s legal team argued that for the child’s mother to be unable to give her son her own name while her husband was entitled to qualified as a violation of the equality between the sexes, as enshrined in Italian law.
Although the court ruled in the couple’s favour, there remain some legal ambiguities over when it would publish its findings. This leaves other Italian parents of newborn children in some doubt over whether simply allowing either the mother or father to register their name would meet the standards demanded by gender equality legislation.
Italy’s parliament first attempted to draft legislation to allow women the right to be included in their children’s names 40 years ago, but the bill has been blocked by the members or the Senate for years. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights found that the practice could be used to discriminate against women.
Now, the court’s decision has been welcomed by many elected officials. “The Constitutional Court has taken a decision of great importance for our society,” said Democratic Party deputy Fabrizia Giuliani.
“The Senate no longer has any excuse for not abolishing this anachronism and giving women their right in this matter.”