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CRIME

Rome mayor calls for stronger laws to tackle rape after ‘black month’ for sexual assaults

Rome's mayor Virginia Raggi on Tuesday called for tougher laws against rape, after a spate of reported sexual assaults in the capital and across Italy.

Rome mayor calls for stronger laws to tackle rape after 'black month' for sexual assaults
Rome mayor Virginia Raggi looks on during a press conference. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

“What is happening to women is monstrous; it's a black September for Italy,” said Raggi, commenting on the recent reports of violent rapes. 

“We need to act now – the government must intervene, even through [the introduction of] special laws,” said the mayor.

Her words came just hours after news that a doctor in Catania, Sicily was raped while at work in an emergency medical unit. Police arrested the attacker, who entered the centre at around 11pm by pretending to be ill, according to Rai News.

The doctor's ordeal lasted more than two hours after the attacker reportedly damaged the telephone and emergency alarm system, and has prompted an outcry from workers in the health sector.

Italy's health minister, Beatrice Lorenzin, said that she was “shocked by the umpteenth act of violence on a female doctor in her place of work” and said the violence was “unacceptable”.

Lorenzin also said she was “very concerned” about the level of security in hospitals, and called a meeting of ministers to discuss possible solutions to the problem.

In June, a doctor in Abruzzo was stabbed to death outside the hospital where she worked, with police saying her killer was likely a man who had previously been reported for stalking the woman.

According to the most recent figures from national statistics agency Istat, 652,000 women in Italy have been victims of rape, with the majority (63 percent) of such crimes carried out by partners or ex-partners. More than one in five Italian women aged between 16 and 70 had suffered sexual violence, the same figures showed.

Recent weeks have seen several particularly brutal rape cases, including the rape of a German woman in one of Rome's most famous parks on Sunday night.

Earlier in September, four people were arrested over two gang rapes in the seaside town of Rimini, and the following week two police officers were placed under investigation for the alleged rape of two US students. In each of these cases, 

Hundreds of women demonstrated in Florence over the weekend to show solidarity with the American students, following Italian media coverage which organizers said reflected “a sexist rape culture […] that constantly insinuates that the victims ‘were asking for it’”.

 

 

Raggi said last week that Rome's council was working on improving security through installing extra CCTV cameras, better lighting, and improving nighttime transport links. Women in Rome, and in many of Italy's other large cities, can already get a discount on taxi journeys if travelling alone late at night.

ITALIAN HISTORY

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

An excavation team in Rome is trying to unearth the first, oldest section of the Appian Way, the Roman Empire's most strategic highway, which may soon become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Rome archaeologists continue search for start of Appian Way

A paved road of more than 500 kilometres (310 miles) begun in 312 BC by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus, the ‘Via Appia‘ is an archaeological treasure trove, where an ongoing excavation hopes to uncover the actual starting point of the road in Rome.

The artery leading south to the key port of Brindisi at Italy’s heel provided a gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, especially Greece, and was of strategic importance for the armies and merchants of a quickly expanding Rome.

READ ALSO: Treasure trove of ancient Roman statues unearthed in Tuscany

This week, archaeologists showed off progress in their attempt to dig deep enough to unearth the beginning of the road, hidden far beneath Rome’s Baths of Caracalla, built some five centuries after the Appian Way.

“What we see today is the result of an excavation that began in July with the central goal of finding clues to the location of the first section of the Appian Way,” said archaeologist Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani.

The first, earliest section of the road is the one that provides “the most problems regarding the precise and exact location”, the professor at Roma Tre University cautioned.

The Appian Way is a paved road stretching more than 500 kilometres, begun in 312 B.C. by Roman statesman Appius Claudius Caecus. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Construction of the Appian Way required Herculean engineering, from the levelling of the land, building of ditches and canals and surfacing of the road with gravel and heavy stone, to the building of post offices and inns to support the thousands of soldiers and merchants headed southward.

Digging deeper

Wandering today along the Appian Way, where massive blocks of paving stone are still visible in sections, is to take a trip through the past.

Imposing monuments such as the first century BC tomb of a consul’s daughter, Cecilia Metella, sit alongside ancient catacombs and churches, crumbling tombstones of Roman families and leafy villas.

The Appian Way sheds light not only on the Roman Republic and later Roman Empire, but also on life and death in the Middle Ages with its pilgrimage shrines and crypts.

The road also provides a glimpse of modern architectural wonders, such as the sumptuous villas owned by Italy’s rich and famous, including film legend Gina Lollobrigida or former premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Appian Way in Rome

A man walks along Rome’s Appian Way, which might soon become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Italy, which earlier this month presented its bid for the Appian Way to UNESCO, already has 58 sites recognised as World Heritage Sites, the most of any country.

They include entire historical city centres, such as Rome, Florence and Venice, and archaeological areas such as the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Work to locate the starting point of the Appian Way, believed to be some eight metres below ground, has so far been complicated by groundwater.

Nevertheless, digging in higher strata of ground has unearthed relics from different periods, including a marble bust from the second century AD and an early papal square coin, minted between 690 and 730.

Wandering today along the Appian Way is to take a trip through the past. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP)

Archaeologists have also found fragments of glass and ceramics, mosaic and bits of amphora.

So far, the excavation has reached residential or commercial structures dating back to the time of Emperor Hadrian, who died in 138 AD.

Archaeologist Daniele Manacorda said the current excavation had reached the point of “late ancient Rome, the one that began to live in the ruins of ancient Rome”.

“If we could continue to dig deeper, we would find archaic Rome,” he said.

By AFP’s Kelly Velasquez and Alexandria Sage

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