Rome: Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled as unlawful the practice of automatically giving children their father's surname, in a judgment hailed as a step forward for women's rights.
The highest court in the country said existing norms are 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". From now on, "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. "Italian women have won a historic right," leading daily La Repubblica said. Among those hailing the ruling were Alessandra Mussolini, the grand-daughter of former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who gave 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 Il Messaggero newspaper.