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Italian Citizenship Rights for Women and the 1948 Rule
Like many countries around the world, Italy made major gains in the 20th century in terms of gender equality. After World War II, Italian women were granted the right to vote in national elections and the right to hold government positions. In the 1970s, they won additional rights around divorce and reproductive health.
Today, 60 percent of Italian university graduates are female, and women are well-represented in subjects like mathematics and information technology. Italian women also hold jobs once occupied only by males in fields like law enforcement and manufacturing.
Despite this progress, a law from the past still affects the descendants of Italians today. It’s called the 1948 Rule, and it creates problems for people who want to pursue Italian citizenship by descent (jure sanguinis). Here’s some background information:
- Before 1948, only men (whether they were born in Italy or abroad) could legally pass down Italian citizenship to their children because of the 1912 Italian Citizenship Law. Children born to Italian men were automatically granted Italian citizenship. This law did not apply to women, though, which meant children born to Italian women were not considered Italian citizens.
- In 1948, Italy became a Republic and granted women and men equal rights. Under the new constitution, Italian women could now pass down Italian citizenship to their children, but only to children born after January 1, 1948.
So, while the new Italian constitution expanded rights for women and their children, it didn’t go far enough.
As of today, you can still be denied Italian citizenship if you were born before 1948 and want to pursue Italian citizenship under your Italian mother’s name. Or, suppose you want to claim Italian citizenship under another Italian-born female ancestor, such as your grandmother. You can’t if your mom was born before 1948.
Challenging the 1948 Female Line Rule
Many people feel that the 1948 rule is discriminatory. Some have even successfully challenged it in court. The Italian Supreme Court recently held that the 1948 Rule goes against constitutional principles of equality between men and women.
The court is, therefore, allowing children born before 1948 (to Italian mothers) to file an appeal to the 1948 Rule. They may be able to obtain Italian citizenship, as long as they meet all other jure sanguinis eligibility criteria.
Even though the Italian Supreme Court has been somewhat receptive to people challenging the 1948 Rule, they still haven’t modified or amended it. That means U.S.-Italian Consulates will strictly adhere to the rule and will continue to deny Italian citizenship under jure sanguinis to certain people. Since jure sanguinis citizenship is a matter of Italian law, courts in the U.S. have no say.
Challenging the 1948 Rule might not be an easy task if you live outside of Italy. You may want to consult with our group, who is familiar with the issue and who can guide you in navigating Italian law.
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