Italian Constitution of 1948

The Italian state sprouted out of the kingdom of Sardinia-Piedmont. In 1848, king of Sardinia (Charles Albert) introduced a constitution. For next nearly 100 years this constitution remained the basic law of his kingdom and later of Italy. It provisioned a bicameral parliament with a cabinet appointed by the king. With time, the hold of the crown diminished, and ministers became responsible to the parliament rather than the king. Even though the constitution remained formally in force even after the fascists seized power in 1922, it lacked any substantial value. After World War II ended, on June 2, 1946, the Italians voted in a referendum to substitute the monarchy with a republic. A Constituent Assembly made a fresh constitution, which came into force on January 1, 1948.

Built-in guarantees against easy amendment were put in the constitution in order to make it virtually unmanageable to replace it with a dictatorial regime. It was ably upheld and watched over by the Constitutional Court, so that any alteration in the republican form of government could be avoided. The constitution was preceded by the statement of some basic principles that included the definition of Italy as a democratic republic specifying that sovereignty belonged to the people (Article 1). Other principles are related to the inviolable rights of man, the equality of all before the law, and the obligation of the state to abolish socio-economic obstacles that hinder the freedom and equality of citizens and hamper the full development of individuals (Articles 2 and 3).

The constitutionguarantees many forms of personal freedom: the right to travel at home and abroad (Article 16); the privacy of correspondence (Article 15); the right of association for all purposes that are legal, except in secret or paramilitary societies (Article 18); and the right to hold public meetings, if these are consistent with security and public safety (Article 17). There is no press censorship, and only standards of public morality limits freedom of speech and writing (Article 21). The constitution stresses the equality of spouses in marriage and the equality of their children to each other (Articles 29 and 30). Family law has gone through many reforms, including the abolition of the husband’s status as head of the household and the legalization of divorce and abortion. One special article in the constitution related to the protection of linguistic minorities is present (Article 6).

The constitution establishes the freedom of all religions before the law (Article 8) but at the same time recognizes the special status granted to the Roman Catholic Church by the Lateran Treaty in 1929 (Article 7). That special status was later on modified and reduced in significance by a new agreement between church and state in 1985. Because of these alterations and the liberal tendencies manifested by the church after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, religion is quite less a cause of political and social friction in present-day Italy than it was in the past.

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