Italy speaker wants new law to protect women

Italy's speaker of the lower house of parliament Laura Boldrini on Friday denounced threats made against her since her election to the post in March and called for a law to defend Italian women from misogynist and violent acts.

Italy speaker wants new law to protect women
Lower Chamber President Laura Boldrini leaves the Quirinale presidential palace in April. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

"I am not afraid to open a battle front," Boldrini told Italy's La Repubblica daily after receiving hundreds of menacing messages on the Internet, including photos altered to show her head on the bodies of women being raped or strangled.

Those sending threatening messages to women in Italy are in their "thousands and thousands, the number grows day by day, and they represent a part of the country which we cannot ignore," she said.

"It's not an issue which affects me alone. When a woman occupies a public role, sexist attacks are unleashed against them," she said, adding that "it is an emergency situation in Italy, because women are being killed by men every day."

Boldrini said the issue must be dealt with urgently "at an institutional level."

Her comments struck a chord in a country which has been battling in recent years with a growing awareness of the abuse of women by boyfriends, husbands or ex-partners.

In 2012, some 120 women were murdered in so-called femicide attacks, and a third of all women in Italy are victims at some point of domestic violence according to a United Nations report, which cited data from the national statistics agency (ISTAT).

Pages and pages of threats against Boldrini have been left by people on websites and social networks.

"You live 30 kilometres (18 miles) from my house, I promise I'll come and find you," reads one, while another says: "I will handcuff you in a dark room and use you like a urinal, you will drown."

Rome's public prosecutor's department opened an investigation into the threats on Friday.

"The political world must be courageous, it must act," Boldrini said.

Several top politicians spoke out in the speaker's support.

Italy's new equal opportunities minister Josefa Idem said she had been left dismayed and indignant.

"Hundreds of men, vile and without dignity, who consider it normal to insult and threaten a woman for her own opinions – indeed, probably just for the fact that a woman dared to express ideas – are a sign of a subculture that must be uprooted in this country," German-born Idem said.

She said violence against women would be placed among "priority items for the political agenda of this parliament, starting with the ratification of the Istanbul Convention," a 2011 Council of Europe convention on tackling violence against women.

Boldrini "is a courageous woman denouncing the constant humiliation of women on the Internet and in everyday life. We are by her side," said Nichi Vendola, the head of the Left, Ecology and Freedom (SEL) party of which she is a member.

Nils Muiznieks, European commissioner for human rights, said that "the Italian authorities must send a clear signal that verbal attacks cannot exist in a democratic society."

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Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.