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Italian Civil Code


The Italian Civil Code of 1865 was formally adopted by Italy following unification. The Civil Code of 1865 was similar to the Napoleonic Code. The fundamental principles, of both the Napoleonic code and 1865 Italian Civil Code, indicated that all male citizens were equal before the law: primogeniture, hereditary nobility, and class privileges were to be extinguished; civilian institutions were to be emancipated from ecclesiastical control; and freedom of person, freedom of contract, and inviolability of private property were to be placed under the formal protection of Civil Law.


The modern Italian Civil Code contains 2969 articles and is divided into six books categorized under the headings Persons and Family, Succession, Property Obligations, Labor, and Protection of Rights. The Civil Code was adopted in 1942 whereas the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure have been formally used by Italy since 1931. However all of these codes have since been extensively amended and the Code of Criminal Procedure has undergone significant modification based on decisions made in the Italian Constitutional Court. In 1988 a new Code of Criminal Procedure was adopted in realization of the constitutional principles.

Female exclusion from civil rights

Under the Civil Code of 1865 women were formally categorized based, almost exclusively, on the nature of their relationship with an Italian male. Women, as a result, as a group were denied the privilege of civil rights. Women were excluded from political and administrative suffrage, were not allowed to hold any public office, and barred from representing civil state authority. As a result of these limitations women were banned from holding several jobs and lacked access to certain privileges. For instance women, under the original civil code of 1865, were not allowed to become arbitrators, notaries, lawyers, judges, or guardians to individuals unless directly connected through blood. Over Italian Civil Code the process of time woman did gain civil rights equal to men, however, this was a long drawn out process. In 1919, women gained the right to own property and the right to control their income, while also being given access to a handful of legal positions. 26 years later, in 1945, women received the right to vote in elections. Finally, in 1975, reforms were introduced and enacted that brought about a legal change to the distribution of power between the sexes in marriage, which had formerly held an incredibly masculine bias.


In the Italian Civil Code’s amended legislation of 1992 there are three types of citizens that are recognized as citizens at birth.

  • The child of a citizen father or mother
  • Those who were born in the territory of the Republic if both parents are unknown or stateless persons, or if the child does not follow the citizenship of the parents under the law of the State to which the parents belong.
  • The child of unknown parents found in the territory of the Republic is considered a citizen by birth, unless possession of another citizenship is proved.

There is also a provision in Italian Civil Law which states that all adopted aliens automatically acquire citizenship


For the most part aliens residing in Italy can gain access to citizenship in one of four ways. The first is through engaging in active military service for the Italian state. The Second is by taking public employment from the state, within the republic or abroad. The third is by residing in the territory of the republic for at least two years prior to reaching majority and declaring, within one year of this date, that one wishes to acquire Italian Citizenship. The Fourth is through legally residing for at least 6 months in the territory of the republic before marrying an Italian citizen. This fourth kind of citizenship is lost however upon annulment, divorce, or legal separation. There are also certain provisions that bar an alien from attaining Italian citizenship upon marriage. The Italian Civil Code these provisions are for the most part criminal misconduct. If the future wife or husband has committed a crime of considerable degree, or poses a threat to the nation at large, then they will be barred from formal entry.


Italian citizenship is lost when a citizen is publicly or militarily in the employment of a foreign nation or international entity with which the Italian state refuses to acknowledge. This loss of citizenship, however, is prefaced by a warning issued by the Italian state urging the Italian citizen to give up their public or military position within an allotted amount of time. During war-time this provision is made much more important as any citizen publicly, or militarily, employed within a state at odds with Italy is essentially forced to give up their citizenship.

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