Italy draws up plans to fight violence against women

89 women are victims of gender-based violence every day in Italy.

The Italian cabinet is to discuss a new package of measures designed to grant greater protection to women and increase penalties for men who are violent towards them, Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese announced on Tuesday.

The measures up for discussion include increasing mandatory prison sentences for abusers; dealing with domestic violence cases without the need for victims to first file a complaint; and ordering house arrest for men with barring orders who refuse to wear electronic bracelets to keep them away from victims.

Another proposal on the table, reports news agency ANSA, is to assign protection similar to that of witnesses of justice to women who report violence.

Lamorgese is drawing up the measures with justice minister Marta Cartabia, regional affairs minister Mariastella Gelmini, minister for family and equal opportunities Elena Bonetti, and minister for the south Mara Carfagna.

The new norms are designed to prevent violence against women by "making life difficult for abusers", ANSA reports.

"It is necessary to continue the prevention work carried out by our police forces and to act with more incisive rules", said Lamorgese, speaking at the police campaign 'Questo non è amore' (This is not love) event in Catania.

Lamorgese said the measures could be discussed by cabinet as early as next week, stating: "Certainly there is a need to change the minimum legal penalties in order to be able to proceed with more effective prevention tools."

109 women have been killed in Italy since the start of this year.

"The current system centred on shelters and anti-violence centres is important" said Minister Gelmini, citing the "increasingly decisive" Codice Rosso, or Red Code, the law introduced in 2019 to give priority to cases of domestic and gender-based violence.

However, she said, the "time has come to take a step forward, and provide new protection measures for the victim, but also economic, social and employment support."

One woman killed every three days

Since the start of this year 109 women have been killed in Italy (compared to 101 in the same period in 2020), equivalent to one every three days.

Of these, 93 were killed within the context of family or a relationship, with 63 killed at the hands of their partner or ex-partner (compared to 59 in the same period last year).

On average 89 women in Italy are victims of gender-based violence every day; in 62 per cent of cases the perpetrator is the person with whom they have or had a relationship.

This data was released by Italy's central anti-crime directorate on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November.

The highest incidence of women who report having suffered abuse or other gender crimes is recorded in Sicily (172 per 100,000 inhabitants), followed by the Campania region around Naples (152 per 100,000 inhabitants), reports ANSA.

Last year calls to Italy's anti-violence and anti-stalking number 1522 increased by 80 per cent.

This is "the greatest challenge", stressed Italy's police chief Lamberto Giannini in Catania, to convince every single victim of violence "to come out of silence: We must commit ourselves so that reporting is normal".

Attitudes

A recent survey in Italy suggests there is still much to be done in changing attitudes among Italians, male and female, towards violence against women.

The results of the survey, conducted by AstraRicerche and promoted by Milan's municipal anti-violence network, were presented at the Italian senate on Tuesday.

The attitudes captured by the survey paint a disheartening picture.

One in four Italians think that it cannot really be considered a form of violence "to comment on a physical abuse suffered by a woman by stating that it is less serious because her attitudes, her clothing or her appearance communicated that she was available". Among those surveyed, 30 per cent of men and 20 per cent of women thought this way.

About three in 10 do not consider "slapping a partner in the face if she has flirted with another man" violence: this includes 20 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men.

One in three of those surveyed do not consider it violence to force a partner to have sexual intercourse if she does not feel like it: those who think like this are 4 out of 10 men and 3 out of 10 women.

Empty parliament

Also disheartening for many Italians this week was the fact that only eight parliamentarians out of 630 showed up on Monday to listen to Minister Bonetti outline government plans to allocate new resources to help victims of domestic abuse.

Minister Elena Bonetti addresses an empty parliament

The minister delivered her speech addressing violence against women dressed in a symbolic red outfit, including a red mask. However in the end it was the deserted parliament that became the symbolic image.

Italy lights up Colosseum

To mark the UN-backed International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Thursday, Italy will light up the Colosseum in red and project the names of femicide victims onto the ancient Roman monument.

Rome will also host the annual Non Una di Meno (Not One Less) rally – designed to recall the victims of femicide and male aggression as well as demanding greater rights for women - in Piazza della Repubblica at 14.00 on Saturday 27 November.