The Italian Almanac

living in sin

No Sin in Living in Sin

Parents angry at adult kids who 'live in sin' should mind their own business, Italy's top appeals court said. The Court of Cassation said living together outside wedlock was now ''accepted in all social circles'' in Italy, and offended none of society's rules or customs. More importantly, it broke no Italian law, the judges said.

The ruling upheld an earlier guilty verdict against the father and brother of a 25-year-old woman, named only as Vittoria, who went to live with her boyfriend, Francesco. Believing the move would cast shame on the whole family, her father initially tried to stop her moving out. Father and son later showed up at the couple's new home with a shovel, threatening Vittoria and her partner, before smashing the couples' door and denting the man's car. A Calabrian court found both men guilty of property damage, attempted domestic violence and attempted personal violence.

On appeal, the father argued his sentence (which has not been made public) should be reduced, alleging a temporary loss of control provoked by his daughter's behaviour. ''The flight of Vittoria constituted an unjust deed sufficient to create a state of uncontrollable rage in the defendant,'' his lawyer said. But the Court of Cassation and a lower appeals court disagreed. ''The behaviour of the two young people, Vittoria and Franceso, is now accepted at all levels of society and cannot be considered contrary either to legal norms or to the ethical, social or customary rules of the community,'' said the court. It added that parents should respect the decisions of their offspring, rather than treating cohabitation as an affront to family honour.

While cohabitation among unwed couples is far less common in Italy than in some Western countries, the last 15 years have seen a major shift in attitude. The most recent report on cohabitation by national statistics institute Istat noted that the number of unmarried couples living together doubled between 1994 and 2003, up from 227,000 to 555,000. Nearly half of all young couples setting up home for the first time have not yet taken their vows and have no immediate plans to do so.