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WOMEN

Treaty to combat ‘vile’ attacks on women

Italy ratified a treaty combating violence against women on Wednesday in a bid to redress an escalating trend of attacks including a spate of acid crimes against female victims.

Treaty to combat 'vile' attacks on women
Italy's Equal Opportunities Minister Josefa Idem spoke out about femicide. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

The 2011 Istanbul Convention aims to "prevent violence, protect victims and punish the guilty," Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said.

The treaty has been signed by 25 Council of Europe member states but has so far only been ratified by Turkey, Albania, Portugal, Montenegro and now Italy.

It needs to be ratified by 10 countries – eight of which need to be members of the Council of Europe – for it to take effect.

Bonino said she would "continue an awareness campaign to encourage our partners to ratify the convention as quickly as possible so that it can enter into force."

The convention, which had already been approved by Italy's lower house of parliament, was adopted unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday.

Its measures to improve prevention and protection include "granting police power to remove perpetrators from the home" and improving resources such as "shelters, telephone hotlines, specialist support services, crisis centres, and legal assistance."

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

A 2012 report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation comparing women's rights in the G20 countries highlighted femicide as being a particular problem in Italy. The country was however not alone in being criticized; India was defined as the worst G20 country for women, while violence against women in Mexico was especially high.

There have been dozens of cases reported of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or former partners this year, as well as a spate of acid attacks which have stunned the European country.

Last month the body of 15-year-old Fabiana Luzzi was found in southern Italy, her boyfriend had allegedly stabbed her multiple times before setting her alight while Luzzi was still alive. 

In May, Italy's speaker of the lower house of parliament Laura Boldrini called for a law to defend Italian women from misogynist and violent acts 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.

She was defended by Italy's new equal opportunities minister, German-born Josefa Idem, who said that the "men, vile and without dignity, who consider it normal to insult and threaten a woman…are a sign of a subculture that must be uprooted in this country."

Earlier this month Italy appointed Isabella Rauti, the wife of Rome's former mayor Gianni Alemanno, as the government's advisor on the issue of violence against women.

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WOMEN

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post

Pope Francis has broken with Catholic tradition to appoint a woman as an undersecretary of the synod of bishops, the first to hold the post with voting rights in a body that studies major questions of doctrine.

Pope appoints French woman to senior synod post
Pope Francis has appointed Nathalie Becquart as undersecretary of the synod of bishops. She is the first woman to hold the post. Photo: AFP

Frenchwoman Nathalie Becquart is one of the two new undersecretaries named on Saturday to the synod, where she has been a consultant since 2019.

The appointment signals the pontiff's desire “for a greater participation of women in the process of discernment and decision-making in the church”, said Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary-general of the synod.

“During the previous synods, the number of women participating as experts and listeners has increased,” he said.

“With the nomination of Sister Nathalie Becquart and her possibility of participating in voting, a door has opened.”

The synod is led by bishops and cardinals who have voting rights and also comprises experts who cannot vote, with the next gathering scheduled for autumn 2022.

A special synod on the Amazon in 2019 saw 35 female “auditors” invited to the assembly, but none could vote.

The Argentinian-born pope has signalled his wish to reform the synod and have women and laypeople play a greater role in the church.

He named Spaniard Luis Marin de San Martin as the other under undersecretary in the synod of bishops.

Becquart, 52, a member of the France-based Xaviere Sisters, has a master's degree in management from the prestigious HEC business school in Paris and studied in Boston before joining the order.

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