Italian court rules children should take both parents’ surnames

Italy's highest court ruled on Wednesday that babies should be given both parents’ surnames - not just the father’s - in a move hailed as a step forward for women's rights.

Italian court rules children should take both parents' surnames
Mothers and fathers in Italy will for the first time have equal rights when naming children under changes ordered by the country's highest court. Photo by Martin BUREAU / AFP

Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled that automatically assigning a child just the surname of their father was unconstitutional, “discriminatory and detrimental to the identity of the child”, and called on parliament to change the law.

The court emphasised that both parents should be involved in choosing their child’s surname, which “constitutes a fundamental element of personal identity”.

READ ALSO: How much parental leave do you get in Italy?

Under the changes, “the child takes the surname of both parents in the order agreed by them, unless they decide jointly to attribute only the surname of one of the two”, it said in a press statement.

In case of disagreement, a judge will decide.

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

This would theoretically make it possible for the first time for children born in Italy to carry only their mother’s last name.

In Italy, it is standard practice for women to keep their last names after marriage. As a result, it’s usual for mothers to have different surnames from their children.

READ ALSO: How families can claim Italy’s new universal single allowance

The ruling means Italian naming practices now look set to become similar to those in Spain, where children’s surnames are usually composed of the father’s followed by the mother’s.

“Italian women have won a historic right,” newspaper La Repubblica said.

The Italian government is now tasked with passing laws detailing how the court’s ruling will be implemented.

The minister for families and equal opportunities, Elena Bonetti, said in a statement that the government supports the ruling, and described it as “another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”

Among those hailing the ruling was Alessandra Mussolini, the grand-daughter of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who was able to give her three children her last name only after a tortuous process.

“To be able to pass on one’s surname… is an act of civilisation,” she told Italy’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

Member comments

  1. And after getting 2 surnames, what happens to that childs children, they get 4 surnames…..? Did they think it through?

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Pope calls couples who choose pets over having children ‘selfish’

Pope Francis risked the ire of the world's childless dog and cat owners Wednesday, suggesting people who substitute pets for kids exhibit "a certain selfishness".

Pope Francis blesses a child during his general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on January 5, 2022 (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)
Pope Francis criticises couples who have pets and children for being selfish. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Speaking on parenthood during a general audience at the Vatican, Francis lamented that pets “sometimes take the place of children” in society.

“Today… we see a form of selfishness,” said the pope. “We see that some people do not want to have a child.

“Sometimes they have one, and that’s it, but they have dogs and cats that take the place of children. This may make people laugh but it is a reality.”


The practice, said the head of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, “is a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”.

Thus, “civilisation grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers”, the pontiff said at the Paul VI Hall.

Francis has been photographed petting dogs, allowed a baby lamb to be draped over his shoulders during Epiphany in 2014 and even petted a tiger and a baby panther.

But while his predecessor, Benedict XVI, was a cat lover, Francis is not known to have a pet at his Vatican residence.

In 2014, Francis told Il Messaggero daily that having pets instead of children was “another phenomenon of cultural degradation”, and that emotional relationships with pets was “easier” than the “complex” relationship between parents and children.

On Wednesday, while inviting couples who are unable to have children for biological reasons to consider adoption, he urged potential parents “not to be afraid” in embarking on parenthood.

“Having a child is always a risk, but there is more risk in not having a child, in denying paternity,” he said.

The Argentine pontiff has in the past denounced the “demographic winter”, or falling birth rates in the developed world.

READ ALSO: Italy heading for demographic ‘crisis’ as population set to shrink by a fifth

Earlier this year, he criticised modern society, in which career and money-making trumps building a family for many, calling such mentality “gangrene for society”.

But a study by the Istat national statistics agency revealed that most Italians do want to have at least two children.

Experts pointed out that Italy’s high levels of unemployment, the broadly badly-paid, short-term work contracts, and a lack of affordable housing and childcare mean many young people put off starting a family as they think it’s unaffordable to do so in Italy.

Italy has for years recorded one of Europe’s lowest birth rates and is set to lose a fifth of its population in 50 years, further official data from Istat suggests.

The agency stated that the data marked “a potential picture of crisis”.

Italy’s population is expected to decrease from 59.6 million people in January 2020 to 47.6 million in 2070, it predicted, representing a drop of 20 percent.

In 2012, Italy saw births fall to the lowest level since it became a nation state in 1861, to around 534,000. Since then, new record lows have been established every year.

In 2020, the Italian population shrank by almost 400,000 due to the effects of the pandemic.