October 26, 2000

Colombia scraps century-old paternity law

                  BOGOTA, Colombia (Reuters) -- Colombia's Constitutional Court this week
                  struck down a law banning mothers-to-be, whether divorced or separated from
                  their partners, from remarrying before they give birth.

                  Under the law, which dated back to a 19th century civil code, pregnant women
                  whose marriages had been annulled -- and even those who were widows -- had
                  to give birth before they could marry again.

                  It also established a 270-day "waiting period" for women who wanted to remarry, even if they
                  swore they were not bearing a child, just to make sure they showed "no signs of pregnancy."

                  But in a ruling late on Wednesday, the Constitutional Court said the law,
                  originally designed to ensure child paternity rights, violated the rights of women.

                  "This was an irrational law and it violated women's rights," said court justice
                  Antonio Barrera Carbonell.

                  "The purpose of this law was to dispel doubts about the paternity, but today,
                  scientific tests can determine that. It was obsolete and belonged to the 19th

                  As in most Latin American countries, Colombia's women have long been subject
                  to discrimination and less than equal treatment in a society dominated by men
                  who pride themselves on their machismo.

                  The Andean nation had the dubious honor of being the last country in the
                  hemisphere, after Paraguay, to grant voting rights to women in the 1950s.

                     Copyright 2000 Reuters.