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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 02:41 GMT 03:41 UK
Chile unveils new 'paternity law'
By Clinton Porteous
BBC News, Santiago

A Chilean street. File photo
Chile is traditionally seen as a socially conservative society
A new law has been officially launched in Chile giving the courts widespread power to order men to undergo DNA testing in paternity disputes.

If a man refuses to submit to a court-ordered DNA test, he will officially be allocated legal responsibility for the child.

The law is designed to try to change Chilean society, where half the children are born outside marriage.

More than 10% of Chile's babies do not have a legally recognised father.

Changing society

In a ceremony at the presidential palace, President Ricardo Lagos said the new parenthood law would strengthen Chilean families and force men to face up to their responsibilities.

He said it would help ensure Chilean women did not have to raise children on their own without financial support.

Last year there were 240,000 babies born in Chile and 28,000 of them did not list a father's name on the birth certificate.

Justice Minister Luis Bates said the new law would assist mothers by using modern DNA testing.

"If a father rejects the examination of DNA under the old law, the procedure finished, and in the new law there is an assumption that he is the father of the child," Mr Bates told the BBC.

The law was approved by both houses of Congress with relatively little opposition.

Chile is traditionally seen as a socially conservative society dominated by men and the Roman Catholic Church.

But there have been major changes recently with the introduction of divorce last year and opinion polls are showing a woman candidate is favourite to win the presidential election at the end of the year.

The road to divorce in Chile
18 Nov 04 |  Americas
Chile Congress backs divorce law
11 Mar 04 |  Americas
Sexual revolution in Chile
27 Apr 00 |  Crossing Continents
The woman eyeing Chile's top job
13 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Chile
16 Jun 05 |  Country profiles

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