The women of San Marino, one of the world's oldest and smallest republics, have lost a bitter battle for equality that gives their cause a setback.
In a referendum Sunday, 57 percent of the republic's 19,000 inhabitants voted to keep a 1928 law that strips a San Marino woman of her citizenship if she marries a foreigner. Italy, which surrounds the republic of 23 square miles, is considered a foreign state and Italian men ''foreigners.'' With the loss of her citizenship, the San Marino woman also loses her right to vote, to work, to own property, to reside, or inherit property. San Marino citizens living abroad voted to abolish the law, which has prompted many women to live with their ''foreign'' men rather than marry them.