Italy one of the worst countries in Western Europe for gay rights: report

Italy reached a "historic milestone" in granting civil unions in 2016, but is a long way from being LGBT-friendly, a report published on Wednesday warned.

Italy one of the worst countries in Western Europe for gay rights: report
People take part in Rome's annual Gay Pride parade. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In the latest Rainbow Europe report, Italy scored just 27 percent in its protections for and rights granted to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT). 

That made Italy one of the worst countries in Western Europe in terms of gay rights. However, its ranking of 32nd out of 49 countries was an increase of three places from the 2016 ranking, when it scored just 20 percent. 

One of the key reasons for the improved score was the passing of a bill allowing gay unions in May 2016, said ILGA-Europe, which wrote the report.

But the removal of a stepchild adoption clause, and fierce opposition to the bill even in its watered-down state, meant that many rights campaigners were far from satisfied, and the report criticized “divisive, derogatory language about same- sex couples and their children from parliamentarians who opposed the bill”. 

One senator, for example, tweeted that LGBT people were in “severe hysterics” over the bill's possible defeat. And an Italian priest said later in the year that the deadly earthquakes in central Italy were “divine punishment” for passing the bill.

READ MORE: Why not everyone is happy with Italy's civil unions bill

Even more worrying, LGBT people in Italy are at risk of homophobic violence, the report said, citing a far-right attack on a Rome Gay Centre, and five murders of trans people in Italy in 2016.

But there were signs that Italy was at least beginning to move in the right direction in terms of equal rights. The report noted that Italy's National Olympic Committee amended its statute, banning homophobia in sport, and a tribunal ruled in June that a religious school could not discriminate based on sexual orientation.

In the latter case, a Catholic school in northern Italy was ordered to pay a teacher damages after refusing to renew her contract when she refused to “clarify rumours about her sexual orientation”.

Ensuring marriage equality for all was one of ILGA-Europe's recommendations for Italy in order to improve the situation for LGBT people. 

It also recommended equal access to medically assisted insemination treatments, and prohibiting medical intervention on intersex minors where the procedure is not medically necessary.

In September, a two-year-old intersex child was reportedly operated on in a Palermo hospital, and a UN report the following month recommended that irreversible surgery not be carried out on children or infants.

As for how other countries performed in the rankings, neighbouring Malta retained its pole position as the most gay-friendly nation in Europe for the second year running after introducing a gender identity law and ban on harmful conversion practices. Also in the top five were Norway (78) , the UK (76), Belgium (72), and France (71).

The report ranked 49 countries based on their laws pertaining to same-sex marriage, adoption, rights for transgender people, and more.

The Rainbow Europe rankings in full: 


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hoto: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr


‘Don’t call me gay, we are human beings first,’ says designer Stefano Gabbana

Italian designer Stefano Gabbana, one half of the iconic Dolce & Gabbana brand, said on Sunday that he was tired of being labelled by his sexuality.

'Don't call me gay, we are human beings first,' says designer Stefano Gabbana
Stefano Gabbana (L) with business partner Domenico Dolce at a fashion show last year. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

“I don't want to be called gay, because I'm simply a man… full stop,” the 55-year-old said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera daily.

“The word 'gay' was invented by those who need to label people, and I don't want to be identified by my sexual choices,” he said.

Gabbana launched the luxury fashion label in 1984 with his partner Domenico Dolce, and although they separated in 2004 the couple continued to work together.

“I thought that I could help spread a new culture as a famous person, a culture no longer based on gay rights but on human rights. We are human beings before being gay, heterosexual or bisexual,” Gabbana said.

READ ALSO: Italy one of the worst countries in western Europe for gay rights: report

The Milanese couturier said gay associations “often serve as a defence, but I don't want to be protected by anyone, because I've done nothing wrong”.

He said he realized he was homosexual aged 18, when his girlfriend “who I really liked” came to visit him for a weekend in Milan, but when they went dancing he “was watching the men more than her”.

“I had known (about being gay) for a while, but I didn't have the courage to admit it. Only through therapy did I realize that there had been clear signs in my childhood.

“I wanted to play alone… because I felt different from the other children and I feared that if we were together they would realize. And they would tell my mother,” he added.

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