When Decades Of Women’s Fights Disappear With A Law

The Pillon decree law takes Italy too many steps backwards.

In September, the Pillon draft law – named after the Northern League Senator and founder of the Family Day, Simone Pillon — got it through the Italian Senate’s committee on justice. This reform deals with that set of regulations concerning divorced parents and child custody, domestic violence and children economic support in the event of divorce.

However, the way the legislator addressed these issues is extremely problematic at best. Since its issuing, the Pillon decree has unleashed the protests of women and children protection associations. On September 29, many civil society organizations rallied in Bologna demanding the withdrawal – not even the amendment – of the bill, whereas another protest was held in Rome few days ago, on November 10, whose the largest organizers were the women’s movement “Non Una di Meno”.

Children are not parcels

Considering just one of the controvertial innovations introduced by the law draft, we can start treating some of the implications that a complete shared custody would imply. According to the decree, children of a divorced couple would be forced to equally share their time between the two parents. Hence, they are supposed to spend fifteen days per month with each of them. What immediately jumps out – but apparently not for the legislator – is that this double residence and life could become extremely complicate. What if the unlucky ex-couple lives in two different cities? How could a child attend two different schools? Is this measure in the child’s best interest – which should be the main concern of the legislator?

As mentioned above, the practical implementation of the regulation seems problematic at best, especially since there is no possible derogation from this principle. The parental plan indeed, rigidly determines the length of time that minors will have to spend with each parent and the type of activity that minors will have to perform at the time. This assumption is thus very challenging and far from reality. Here explained the main movement slogan “Children are not parcels”.

You don’t become a father only in the divorce

The draft law also introduces the direct child support based on the equalization of the time spent by the minor with the parents and consequently implies the abolition of the maintenance allowance to the parent with whom the child resides. Here’s another problem. Since Italy is a country where the gender pay gap is still broad, on average the mother’s expenses will be relatively higher than the ex-husband’s ones. This type of intervention might appear fair in principle, but it actually perpetuates women inequality in many fields and situations.

This is even more true if we consider that the accountability as father starts just in case of divorce or separation, and not when the child is born. In most cases indeed, fathers are not allowed to temporary leave work to take care of the children or to assist the mother in the moment of birth. Why not introducing the mandatory paternity leave instead, so that also men are able to take all the responsibilities deriving from their paternity?

Domestic violence should be fought, not mediated

Another controversial point of the draft bill is the introduction of the family mediator – a paid specialist whose advice intends to find an agreement between parents and is made binding for at least three meetings – significantly increasing the already high divorce fees. The involvement of this figure is compulsory even in case of domestic violence. Hence, the other slogan “Domestic violence should be fought, not mediated”.

Such an amendment infringes Article 48 of the Istanbul Convention, which prohibits the use of means of dispute settlement alternative to the court. Moreover, having a lawyer during the mediation would also be prohibited, leading to a violation of the right of defence. This could be extremely dangerous for women in a country where the so-called “femminicidio” – the murder of a woman perpetuated by her partner – is still alarmingly high.

A step backwards

Speaking as a woman who really loves her work and hopes one day to have a family, this draft law seems nothing but a big step backwards and a real deterrent for marriage and parenting. Obviously, nobody gets engaged thinking that the marriage might one day end. However, people change and the future is not foreseeable, which is why divorce is an important instrument that allows independence of women and an emergency exit from abusive relationships. In addition, equal parenthood rights should be guaranteed in the face of an equal pay and equal opportunities, especially in terms of entry into the labour market. Once all these issues have been addressed, I might consider to have kids in Italy.