400 women in Italy’s Democratic Party protest ‘boys’ club’ culture

Hundreds of women in Italy's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) have signed an appeal to party leaders, saying it must fix a sexist internal culture in order to restore its credibility.

400 women in Italy's Democratic Party protest 'boys' club' culture
Boys' club? The Democratic Party's secretary and heads of its parliamentary group in the two houses of parliament. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

“It's time to move from promises to action,” wrote PD senator Francesca Puglisi in the 'TowandaDem' petition, which has been signed by 460 women in the party.

She noted that in the previous legislation, the PD had the highest level of female representation in parliament, but was overtaken after the March 4th vote by both the Five Star Movement and parties on the right wing.

“We thought [the issue of female representation] was sorted. A fatal political error that we'll never repeat,” Puglisi wrote.

“The crisis of identity in the Democratic Party and the Party of European Socialists comes from the difficulty in representing society's needs and above all the weakest segments of society, which inevitably turn to populist promises,” the appeal continues.

“We have lost the battle against inequality. We haven't been able to create a vision of society people can believe and hope in.”

Puglisi and the other PD women have called on the party leadership to allow them to be “protagonists” in “the necessary founding phase of the party”, and for equal representation at every level of the PD.

READ ALSO: Italy's new parliament is younger, more diverse and more female

The writers claim that “in the Democratic Party, an increasingly closed and quiet leadership group is hiding behind delegations and talks made up only of men”.

“In parliament, deputies and senators have worked tirelessly to advance rights and freedom for women,” Puglisi continued, using the female form of both profession.

The accusations come as Italy's PD, along with many other major European centre-left parties, is suffering an identity crisis that has led to fractures and splits. 

These internal rifts came to the fore under former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who was seen by many as trying to change too much too fast with his planned sweeping reforms. Crucially, he tried to do this before amassing enough support within his own party.

At the start of 2017, a group of left-wing rebels left the party to form their own, the Progressive and Democratic Movement (DP), and called for “a left-wing renewal”.

Together with the Italian Left, formed in February last year, and Possible, a small leftwing party founded in 2015, the rebels formed the Free and Equal alliance, which just surpassed three percent of the vote in March's election — well below the predictions of opinion polls.

It's not just the left-wing groups that are male-dominated: all four of Italy's major political parties are currently led by men, and both houses of parliament are made up mainly of white men (the country elected its first ever black Senator in the March vote) middle-aged or older.

Two women led parties which ran in this year's election, but Emma Bonino's More Europe party failed to enter parliament, and Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy was the junior ally in a three-way centre-right alliance with the League and Forza Italia.

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding Italy's Democratic Party



Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents’ rights

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday in protest against a new government directive stopping local authorities from registering the births of same-sex couples' children.

Protesters gather in Milan as Italy limits same-sex parents' rights

“You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,” read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled the northern city’s central Scala Square.

Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.

Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.

Milan’s city hall had been recognising children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy, which is illegal in Italy, or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.

But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed earlier this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.

Milan's mayor Giuseppe Sala

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala has assured residents that he will fight to have the new government directive overturned. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as “unjust and discriminatory”.

A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.

Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest on Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Brothers of Italy party came top in the September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.

“Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!” she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.