'Jail pro-anorexia web writers': Italian MPs

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The proposal includes a year-long jail term. Prison photo: Shutterstock
12:20 CEST+02:00
A group of Italian MPs has proposed jail terms and hefty fines for people encouraging eating disorders, an idea rejected as criminalizing mental illness by one organization.

The law put forward would make it a crime to “incite practicing a diet which causes anorexia and bulimia,” Tgcom24 reported.

The multiparty proposal has been put forward by MPs including Michela Marzano, from the ruling Democratic Party (PD), Forza Italia’s Mara Carfagna and Valentina Vezzali from Civic Choice (Scelta Civica).

If introduced the legislation could be used against people running websites which are viewed as encouraging eating disorders, known as “pro-ana” or “pro-mia”.

A guilty verdict would carry a prison sentence of up to a year and fines as high as €50,000, while punishments could be doubled for people who target children under the age of 14, Tgcom24 said.

But such measures were criticized by Susan Ringwood, chief executive of the UK’s eating disorder organization Beat.

“Pro- anorexia websites that promote an eating disorder as though it were a lifestyle choice and not a treatable mental illness are potentially very dangerous, but we don’t consider banning them to be the answer,” she told The Local.

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In her experience many pro-ana or pro-mia websites are created by people with eating disorders, while they are used by young people seeking acceptance and understanding.

“We don’t think that making their mental illness a crime is the solution. It wouldn’t tackle the root cause of this issue, and could drive it further underground, making it harder to help them,” Ringwood said. 

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