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Women’s rights and marriage in Italy

After the reform on family law in 1975, the condition of women radically changed: the role of the breadwinner (considered as such only for registry purposes) was abolished and since then women and men have had equal rights and duties (Law 151/1975).

One of the places where it is most difficult to make your rights count is the family, due to the emotional ties between its members. It is essential to understand that these rights must be respected and to understand the difference between fondness and rights (article 143 of Italian Civil Code).

Each decision regarding the spouses and the children must be jointly taken without any abuse of power (where to live, how to educate children..).

Marriage gives rights to both spouses to be reciprocally maintained, if they do not have the means for sustenance they must assist one another. Besides, they have inheritance rights.

It is unlawful:

  • to oblige the wife to live in the home chosen by the husband: the family home must be chosen taking into consideration the needs of both spouses;
  • to exclude the wife from the decisions related to children;
  • to deprive the wife of her means of sustenance;
  • to exclude the wife from family governance (also from the financial aspect);
  • to report the other spouse for infidelity, but infidelity if proved can be charged against the unfaithful spouse in case of separation.

You may:

  • make your opinion count in any decision regarding the family, children education, your life: the Italian Law provides full equality between spouses.
  • Unlike the past when parental authority lay with the father, today it is jointly granted by both spouses.

Both of them must contribute to family maintenance: if you are a housekeeper you do it through your family work (art. 143 of the Civil Code).

In case of severe disagreement with your husband in matters regarding the location of the family home or children’s education, you may apply to the Judge (art.145 of the Civil Code).

Be careful: the above-mentioned rights are attributed to you only if you are married! If you are cohabiting you have only the right to jointly contribute to maintenance and to assistance of the children you had with your partner.

When you get married you have two options for managing family property: communal or separation of property regime. This is a fundamental choice and it is highly recommended to carefully consider the regime you wish to adopt before getting married.

Excluding personal assets, the property owned before marriage, donations or inheritance received, through the community of property regime (art. 177 of the Civil Code), the assets purchased through marriage become a joint property and may be governed by both spouses. Also savings and liabilities are jointly considered.

Through the separation of property regime (art.215 of the Civil Code), instead, each spouse is the owner of their own assets and contributes in a proportional way to their possessions to the family needs.

Separation of property is advisable only if both spouses have a safe income (from salary income or professional income).


Excerpt from: I diritti delle donne: guida pratica / aggiornamento a cura della Commissione Provinciale Pari Opportunità della Provincia Autonoma di Trento.