Law 184/83 was declared unconstitutional in 2013 in the part in which it does not provide for the possibility, for those who were not recognized at birth, to know the identity of the biological mother. Arecchia, president of the National Biological Origins Committee: “It is necessary to standardize procedures in all juvenile courts”
The law on adoptions (L. 184/83, art. 28, c. 7) is also known as the “hundred-year law”. It is called this because those who were not recognized at birth have to wait literally a century before being able to access the details of their biological mother. In reality, this is foreseen by the Privacy Code because the law on adoptions establishes an absolute and lifelong ban on accessing this information. In short, the one hundred year anniversary is “a sentence discount”, as Anna Arecchia, president of the National Committee for the Right to Biological Origins, ironically defined it, which has been fighting for years for things to change. In 2013 the Court declared law 184/83 unconstitutional in the part in which it does not provide, through a procedure established by law, that, upon request of the child, the judge can consult the biological mother to choose whether to remove anonymity. Ten years have passed since that ruling, but the law still has not changed.
Fifteen years ago the National Committee for the right to biological origins was born, of which he is president. What do you remember about the beginning?
For many of us it was a taboo topic: in my family no one had ever told me that I was adopted, I discovered it on my own through rumors that reached me and research done in secret. Little by little I started meeting people in my same situation. At the end of the 90s on the first forums we introduced ourselves with pseudonyms, we were ashamed to say our name and surname. We felt like branded people who had a past to hide. Having met thousands of us throughout Italy allowed us to discuss, give ourselves courage and understand that something needed to be done. This is why in 2008 we founded the Committee with the aim of changing law 184/83 on adoptions.
Why is it so important for there to be a law even though the situation has changed after the Constitutional Court ruling?
A law is needed to standardize the procedures for accessing biological origins for those who were not recognized at birth in all 29 Juvenile Courts which, at the moment, are totally entrusted to the discretion of the judge on duty. There cannot be unequal treatment depending on where you live. In over ten years we have seen it all: a woman over 60 was denied access to the details of her biological parent, who had died in the meantime, because he could have identified the other children the woman had, thus upsetting the family atmosphere. The law must also be changed to cover situations that have not been taken into account.
By law, the descendants of the adopted person have no right to access this information. The Committee receives many letters from grandchildren looking for their grandmother. It often happens that parents, before dying, ask their children to continue the research that they were unable to complete, but to date they have no legal possibility of keeping this promise.
Another very critical case is that of an untraceable mother: when the courts do not find the woman to be searched for, they are not allowed to know her personal details. We, as a Committee, believe that when this woman was searched for, and she was found neither deceased nor alive, it should be treated as a case of death and therefore access to the personal details should be authorized.
Responses from the courts are often slow in arriving. Why do these delays occur?
One of the problems is that the Juvenile Courts have found themselves carrying out work that is not their responsibility. All the courts, for example, complained about not having the judicial police available to whom they could entrust the searches, and so about eight years ago they began to turn to the Provincial Command of the Carabinieri. But even for the Carabinieri it was a problem they were unaware of. Our Committee has organized meetings with the Provincial Command of Naples several times to explain where these documents could be. From year to year, we ourselves discover new places where it is possible to find documents containing the mother’s name: some are sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, another remains in the hospital, still others are sent to external storage archives. This is a difficult research and a divisive topic: when the investigation is entrusted to someone who does not believe it is right for this right to be recognized, it is easy for this person to stop at the first obstacle.
How many applications have been submitted?
Since 2014, after the Court’s ruling, the requests began to pour in. On average there are almost 400 per court, so we are in the order of tens of thousands of requests presented over these years.
Does it happen frequently that the mother decides to remove her anonymity?
A good percentage of these requests ended with reunification. There are many cases in which mothers said they were totally unaware that they had signed documents declaring their desire to remain anonymous. Some women had their children taken away by deception: often, in the case of a minor giving birth, the parents agreed with the health workers to tell the girl that the child was stillborn. Many said they had waited a lifetime to be contacted, because there is no possibility for the mother to trace her son. Today there are social networks and many recognitions have also occurred through this side street. But without the mediation of a court there is no protection of privacy, therefore, also for this reason, it would be useful for the law to be approved.
It is the fourth legislature in which you have presented a bill regarding access to the right to biological origins. Will it be possible to complete the process in this legislature?
Former MP Domenico Zinzi was the first to present one of our bills in 2008. We were received several times in the Justice Commission by President Giulia Buongiorno, but the time was not ripe and there had not yet been a ruling from the Constitutional Court. Today Giampiero Zinzi wanted to bring this bill to the attention of the Chamber, following up on the commitment made by his father. The current text is the most complete and was drawn up taking into account all the requests we have received over the years. A few months ago the bill was assigned to the Justice Committee and in the meantime a second bill was presented by the Honorable Annarita Patriarca. We are waiting for the calendar but it is slow in coming. Zinzi himself also urged me to solicit the members of the Justice Commission: I personally contacted all 31 of them and only one of them responded to me. It is a topic that is absolutely not taken into consideration.
What is the outcome after so many years of struggle?
There have been many disappointments and it is tiring to always have to try to convince of the legitimacy of our rights. We are put aside by a policy that does not consider us, also because it is often simply not aware of the topic. Our board has gone hundreds and hundreds of times to the House and Senate to tell our stories. We had the role of informers and trainers of politicians. Even today there are senators who call me and tell me: “I was moved when he told me his story, I had no idea what was behind this law”. We continue to fight as we have always done, but clearly a deep despair sets in when we hear the greatest banalities from those who have not even read the text of the bill, but have the power to reject it.