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Italy told: No law says baby has to have dad’s surname

The European Court of Human Rights found that the Italian courts had upheld a ‘patriarchal principle’.

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights has said that the Italian tradition of giving a baby only the surname of the father cannot be used to discriminate against women.

A married couple from Milan, Alessandra Cusan and Luigi Fazzo, had a girl in 1999. When they registered the birth, Fazzo asked that they be allowed to register the girl under the mother’s surname.

However, this request was rejected and Fazzo was used on the civil register.

The couple appealed, but were told that though there was no law, the rule was “rooted in social consciousness and in Italian history”.

After years of appeals in Italy’s courts, the city of Milan ruled that Fazzo Cusan could be used in 2012. This did not satisfy the couple, who took their case to Europe.

The seven-judge court found in the couple’s favour, saying that discrimination existed in the treatment of the couple.

It said that the Italian Supreme Court had enforced a ‘patriarchal concept’.

“The Italian Constitutional Court itself had recognised that the system in force had its roots in a patriarchal concept of the family which was not compatible with the constitutional principle of equality between men and women.

“It was possible that the rule that the father’s surname be handed down to legitimate children was necessary in practice, and was not necessarily incompatible with the Convention, but the fact that it was impossible to derogate from it had been excessively rigid and discriminatory towards women.”

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