Italy: Their dignity not for sale, women call for an end to PM Berlusconi’s crude sexism Print E-mail

 Dublin ~ Monday February 14 2011

One million women tell Silvio to go now

Women hold placards during a demonstration against Italy' s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in downtown Rome (Reuters)
By Nick Pisa in Rome

A million protesters, the majority of them women, took to the streets across Italy yesterday to call on scandal-hit Silvio Berlusconi to resign.

Marches were held in 200 towns and cities as Italians voiced their anger and frustration at the 74 year-old prime minister, who is facing charges of having sexual intercourse with an underage prostitute and abuse of power.

The protesters said their aim was to show that their dignity and the image of the country had been offended by Mr Berlusconi's obsession with young girls.

Rallies were held in Milan, Genoa, Naples and Bari but the largest was in Rome, where thousands packed into the Piazza del Popolo, which two months ago had been the scene of violent riots after Mr Berlusconi won a confidence vote in the parliament.

Demonstrators, including prostitutes and nuns, carried banners saying: "Italy is not a brothel" and "No prostitutes, no Madonnas, just women."

The protests came a week after demonstrators had also tried to march on Mr Berlusconi's home at Arcore near Milan, where sex parties were allegedly held, in an attempt to throw knickers into his garden, but police prevented them.


Among those who spoke at the Rome rally was Giulia Bongiorno, a member of a party that broke away from Mr Berlusconi's ruling coalition. "I am not here to criticise Berlusconi's sex parties but I am here to criticise when they are used as a selection process," she said.

Leaks from more than 600 pages of the prosecution file suggest Mr Berlusconi surrounded himself at parties with starlets and other women hoping to use their looks to gain positions in politics or within his TV empire.

Organisers called the protest "If Not Now, When?" -- after the novel by the Italian author Primo Levi which tells of Jewish partisans behind German lines during World War Two as they seek to continue their fight against the occupier.

Iaia Caputo, of the organising committee, said: "The Ruby case (the prostitute at the centre of the scandal is known as Ruby) has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power.

"If we accept this as normal, we risk prejudicing the free choice of women."

For almost a month, billionaire Mr Berlusconi has been in the spotlight over his infamous "bunga bunga" parties. He has insisted they were nothing more than convivial social events.

A preliminary hearings judge is not expected to announce before tomorrow whether she has granted the prosecution request to send the case to trial. If approved, the trial could start as early as April.

Mr Berlusconi was said to have watched the rally on television but made no public comment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

 London ~ Monday February 14 2011, page 17

Silvio Berlusconi the focus of day of protests by Italian women

Thousands join marches for respect and values in country with gender gap worse than Kazakhstan's

John Hooper in Rome

Crowds in Rome's Piazza del Popolo protest against Silvio Berlusconi and sleaze in Italian society. (Alessandro Bianchi /Reuters)

Geppi Calcara, a Sicilian archivist, was there with her friend and 11-year-old daughter "because we're tired of our children living in a society of non-values", she said. "We find it really difficult to bring up our children with the values they're learning."

Behind her, the Piazza del Popolo in Rome was filling up with tens of thousands of women, and many men who had arrived with their wives or girlfriends.

"There are lots of us," said Calcara. "But we're not visible. The privately-owned TV channels, which belong to [Silvio] Berlusconi, and all but one of the [state-owned] RAI channels, manipulate the news. So people know nothing, or only half, of what is happening."

On Sunday, Italians dismayed by the prime minister and his antics got a chance to show their feelings in a way that even his television network will find difficult to ignore. Thousands of them assembled in piazzas from the foothills of the Alps to the tip of Sicily and in cities from Auckland to Zurich.

"We're more than a million across the world," the actor Angela Finocchiaro told the crowd in the Piazza del Popolo. And though that claim may be disputed, there was plenty of evidence to suggest the numbers ran to several hundreds of thousands.

The posters for the demonstration proclaimed it was being held in support of "a country that respects women". That the need should be felt for such a protest in Europe, 11 years into the 21st century and several decades after Italy spawned one of the continent's most lively feminist movements is, in part at least, evidence of the impact of Berlusconi and his media empire. Last week, the 74-year-old prime minister learned that prosecutors had asked for his indictment on charges of paying an underage sex worker and abusing his official position when she was arrested. He denies any wrongdoing.

His Mediaset network has for years thrived on supplying the public with schedules that are long on glitzy variety programmes and quiz shows that feature so-called veline – young, pretty women in scanty costumes whose most demanding duty in most cases is to hold up a score card.

But RAI too uses veline, and both networks reflect attitudes in society as much as create them. The posters for the demonstration were printed on a pink background without anyone apparently thinking that was patronising.

Unlike Spanish, Italian has not been altered by the change in relations between the sexes, so the words for positions of authority – chief, minister, lawyer and so on – have no have feminine forms.

According to the World Economic Forum's latest global gender gap report, Italy ranked 74th out of 134 countries surveyed ­ 33 places below Kazakhstan. It scored particularly badly on economic participation and opportunity. Less than half of Italian women have a job and the notion that they should not return to paid work after having a child is still widespread.

Leaked documents from the inquiry into Berlusconi's private life are shot through with indications that aspiring showgirls in Italy are expected to give sexual favours. One claims to have been told by a talent scout who is close to the prime minister that she will have to make "sacrifices" if she wants to get ahead.

Romanian-born Liliana Popa, who married an Italian and teaches French at a Rome school, said she had come to the demonstration to protest at "the spread of a warped idea of relations between men and women. I want a society in which women are judged on merit and not on their degree of availability to men."

Other protesters had a simpler agenda. Carola D'Angelo, a sports events organiser, said: "I'm fed up with this government."

 London ~ Monday, 14 February 2011

Berlusconi faces the wrath of Italy's women

By Michael Day in Milan

 Thousands of protesters, the majority of them women, gathered in city centres across Italy yesterday (AP)

Hundreds of thousands of women gathered in cities across Italy yesterday to protest at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's incorrigible sexism and in particular his fondness, in the words of his estranged wife, for consorting with minors – a penchant that may see him charged with sex-related offences in the coming week. Some of the protesters, who were demanding the Prime Minister's resignation, carried banners that said: "Italy is not a brothel."

Organisers say the 74-year-old premier's antediluvian attitude to women has been made clearer than ever by the allegation that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer, Karima "Ruby" el-Mahroug.

"The Ruby case has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power," said Iaia Caputo of the organising committee of the protests. "We want to send a message to the country and to the parties that do not see themselves a part of what has happened over the last few weeks – it's possible to change route."

In 230 city squares, from Palermo to Bolzano, women – and men – heard a mix of campaigners, celebrities and female politicians denounce the culture of the casting couch, which they say has seen Mr Berlusconi surround himself at parties with pretty starlets seeking a leg up in politics or a job in the mogul's Mediaset television empire.

At one of the biggest demonstrations, in Milan's Piazza del Castello, Cristina Pecchioli, of the CGIL union, said: "This long political season has produced a culture and images about which we want to say 'enough'."
 Europe ~ Sunday 13 February 2011

Italian women hold anti-Berlusconi demonstrations

Video: Women braved the rain in Milan for the anti-Berlusconi rally

Italian women have held protests nationwide and abroad against embattled Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Thousands of protesters marched in more than 60 towns and cities nationwide.

Some women carried banners reading "Italy is not a brothel", and said Mr Berlusconi had demeaned women with his recent sex scandals.

The premier denies attending sex parties and consorting with prostitutes, labelling the claims "disgusting" and politically motivated.

Smaller protests were also held on Sunday in Brussels, Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, Lyon and Toulouse in France, and as far afield as Tokyo.

Last week prosecutors in Milan applied to have Mr Berlusconi put on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage girl.

He denies paying for sex with a Moroccan nightclub dancer when she was 17, and abusing his power to get her released by police after she was detained in another case.

Protests have also been held in other countries, including one outside the Sacre Coeur in Paris

A magistrate will now decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

If convicted, Mr Berlusconi could face up to 15 years in prison.

Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, having sex with one under the age of 18 is an offence that carries a prison sentence.

Sunday's protests had a title - Se non ora, quando? (If not now, when?) - designed to express the frustration of those Italian women who are asking what it will take for Mr Berlusconi to resign, says the BBC's Duncan Kennedy in Rome.

Protests took place across Italy, including Rome, Naples, Palermo, Bari, Trieste and Venice.

'Italy says enough'
Rome's Piazza del Popolo - or People's Square - was crammed with tens of thousands of women and some men in an act of solidarity.
"We are asking all women to defend the value of our dignity, and we are asking men, if not now, when?" organisers said on the protest website.

Marching through Naples, the mayor of the southern Italian city, Rosa Russo Iervolino, said: "The importance of this rally is in the common participation of men and women, young and old, intellectuals and workers."

One woman at a protest in Milan said Italian women had "become a joke to the rest of the world" because of the allegations surrounding Mr Berlusconi.

Some 400 men and women gathered outside the Sacre Coeur cathedral in Paris, banging pans and calling for Mr Berlusconi to resign, while in Madrid, protesters carried banners reading: "Italy says enough" and "My dignity is not for sale".

Despite all the recent negative publicity, Mr Berlusconi's opinion poll ratings are still at around 35%.

The billionaire prime minister also retains the support of his ruling coalition allies the Northern League, who do not want to see him quit, adds our correspondent.