Italian court rules children must take both parents’ surnames

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A top Italian court ruled on Wednesday that newborns must by default bear the surname of both parents – not just the father’s, as had been the case.

The Italian Constitutional Court in Rome has ruled that the automatic attribution to a child of only his father’s surname is constitutionally illegitimate.

The court said parents should each have a say in their child’s surname as it is a “fundamental part of personal identity”. In the future, a child will take the surnames of both parents, by mutual agreement on the order of names, the court heard.

But the child could only take one of the parents’ surnames, if that’s what the parents chose, the court heard – which would allow children for the first time to take only their family’s surname. mother.

The rule should apply to children born to married and unmarried parents, as well as adopted children, the court said.

It is common for Italian women to keep their surname, and it is typical for mother and child in Italy to have different surnames – a similar situation in countries like South Korea. The court’s decision would align Italian naming practices with those of countries like Mexico, where children’s surnames are often made up of the father’s followed by the mother’s.

Cecilia D’Elia, a centre-left Italian legislator and self-proclaimed feminist, called the current appointment process “the latest patriarchal sign of family law”.

Giving the mother “the same dignity as that of the father”, she wrote on Twitter, was simply “a sign of civility”.

Japan says married couples must have the same name, so I changed mine. Now the rule is up for debate.

The Italian legislature is now responsible for passing laws that specify how the court’s decision will be implemented. Italy’s Family and Equal Opportunities Minister Elena Bonetti said in a statement that the government supports the decision, which is “another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between women and men of our country”.

The practice of automatically attributing the father’s surname to a child amounts to discrimination against women and children, she told Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Italy is one of the worst-ranked Western European countries in the European Institute for Gender Equality’s latest index, falling below the European Union average.

Italy had so far carried “a history of male biographies”, Bonetti said. “The surname is part of the identity and personal history, a history that can now be transmitted written in the feminine.”

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