July 5, 2005


France abolishes laws targeting "illegitimate" children

Stories released today by the Associated Press and by Reuters report that France has updated a two-century-old law to remove a distinction in the legal status of children born out of wedlock and those born to married couples.

The new measure was passed by the Cabinet, a rarely used tactic that moves quickly and bypasses parliament.

The change approved by the Cabinet Monday removes the distinction between a "legitimate" child and a "natural" child born to unmarried parents, which first appeared in the 1804 Napoleonic code.

The revision means that the relationship of an unmarried mother to her child will automatically be recognized. Until now, unmarried mothers had to go to city hall to register themselves as new parents. Unmarried fathers will still need to declare themselves officially to authorities.

About 46 per cent of French babies are now born out of wedlock, compared to about 10 per cent in the 1970s, and almost 90 per cent of them are claimed by both parents.

About 33 per cent of children in the United States are born to unmarried parents.