Woman’s legal fight to find out about her origins

Godelli v. Italy |2013

Woman’s legal fight to find out about her origins

I was able to give a story, a contour, to my life, and finally I no longer feel empty or in limbo when I think about my origins, who I am.

Anita Godelli - © Photo Council of Europe


Anita Godelli never knew her mother. Abandoned at birth, she was placed in an orphanage and then taken in by a foster family.

At the age of ten, Anita found out she was adopted. She asked her adoptive parents about her birth mother, but they did not tell Anita anything.

Anita’s difficult childhood was made worse by her inability to find out about her origins.

It was only after her adoptive parents passed away that Anita, who had by this time grown old, asked the local registry office for answers. She received a copy of her birth certificate, but it did not include her birth mother’s name.

After taking legal action, Anita learned that Italian law prevented her from accessing information about her origins because her biological mother wanted her identity kept secret when she gave birth. 

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court found that the relevant Italian law did not strike a fair balance between, on the one hand, Anita’s right to access information about her origins and, on the other, her birth mother’s right to stay anonymous, to which preference was given.

Italy violated Anita’s rights.


After the European court’s judgment in her case, Anita Godelli was able to obtain a court order in Italy which allowed her to learn the identity of her birth mother.

In 2013, Italy’s constitutional court declared the relevant part of the law to be unconstitutional.