Italian court fined for ‘perpetuating sexist stereoypes’ in rape case ruling

Italian court fined for 'perpetuating sexist stereoypes' in rape case ruling
The inscription "Justice" written in Latin is pictured on the facade of an Italian courthouse. Photo: Miguel MEDINA/AFP
Europe's top rights court on Thursday criticised an Italian court for "playing down gender-based violence" after its ruling on a gang rape case referred to the alleged victim's sexuality, behaviour, and the colour of her underwear.

The woman had accused seven men of attacking her in a car after a party in 2008 when she was a student. She said she was drunk at the time.

An appeals court in Florence in 2015 overturned the convictions of six of the men, citing inconsistencies in the woman’s account of the alleged attack.

The European Court of Human Rights did not challenge that verdict but considered whether the wording of the judgement violated the woman’s right to privacy, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

READ ALSO: Anger in Italy as men cleared of rape because victim was ‘too masculine’

Concluding that her right to privacy had been violated, the ECHR said the “language and arguments” used by the Italian court “conveyed prejudices existing in Italian society regarding the role of women”.

“In particular, the Court considered the references to the red underwear ‘shown’ by the applicant in the course of the evening to be unjustified, as were the comments regarding her bisexuality, relationships and casual sexual relations prior to the events in question.”

The Strasbourg court also took issue with the Florence court’s referral to the woman’s “ambivalent attitude towards sex” and the questions it raised around the woman’s role in a film made by one of her alleged attackers before the alleged rape.

READ ALSO: Almost half of Italian women report suffering sexual harassment

The ECHR said it was crucial that courts “avoided reproducing sexist stereotypes” or “playing down gender-based violence and exposing women to secondary victimisation by making guilt-inducing and judgmental comments”.

It ordered the Italian state to pay the woman 12,000 euros ($14,600) in compensation.


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