The Italian Almanac

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Italian Constitutional Court

Italian News - February 18

Italy's Constitutional Court on Thursday criticized a law preventing children from taking their mother's name but said it was powerless to change the situation. Italian legislation prevents children from assuming their mum's name unless the father is unknown, a rule the judges described as the "dated legacy of a patriarchal concept of the family".

They further admitted it was "no longer consistent with the constitutional principle of equality between men and women", as well as going against several international conventions and recommendations by the European Council. However, the two-judge panel rejected a request by the Court of Cassation - Italy's highest appeals court - asking it to rule the law unconstitutional, explaining it was outside their powers. Furthermore, declaring the law illegal would leave a "legislative vacuum", it said.

The judges said it was up to parliament to introduce changes to the law, which represented a concept of "husbandly authority that has now vanished" in Italian society. Activists greeted the news with a mixture of resignation over the ruling and anger that parliament has failed to approve three separate bills on the issue.

Italy's largest women's rights association, Arcidonna, said the sentence revealed the growing gap between Italian political life and society.