In light of the various news articles coming out about Silvio Berlusconi and his attitude towards women, I felt compelled to look into how Italy as a country has fared in their treatment of women. For this, I checked in with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. CEDAW, of which Italy has signed and ratified (unlike the damn U.S.), continues to be concerned with the country’s treatment of women. At their 2005 session, CEDAW stated:
The committee remains concerned about the persistence of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes regarding the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society. These stereotypes undermine women’s social status, present a significant impediment to the implementation of the Convention, and are a root cause of women’s disadvantaged position in a number of areas, including in the labor market and in political and public life. The Committee is also deeply concerned about the portrayal of women in the media and in advertising as sex objects and in stereotypical roles. (CEDAW, Concluding Comments, 5)
CEDAW has also stated concern with Italy’s domestic violence, noting, “The Committee…remains concerned about the persistence of violence against women, including domestic violence, and the absence of a comprehensive strategy to combat all forms of violence against women” (CEDAW, Concluding Comments, 6). During CEDAW’s pre-session, they commented that “The Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has noted with concern that Italy has not yet devised a comprehensive, coordinated and concerted strategy to address the problem of violence against women” (CEDAW, Pre-Session, 4). This suggests that Italy is falling behind in their treatment of women.
Anna Costanza Baldry states, “In the Italian culture, violence within the family is viewed as a normal way of dealing with conflicts and keeping the social status quo. It is therefore accepted and often condoned” (Baldry, 60). This culture of abuse must change, but how can it when the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, makes comments on how abuse and rape will not stop until there "are as many soldiers on the streets as there are pretty girls" (The Curvature).
In Italy, at least one in four women will experience domestic violence (RT). Baldry, states, “…there are no specific laws or acts that address domestic violence [in Italy]. The criminal code on which the Italian criminal justice system is based goes back to 1930, and it is inadequate to face the problem of domestic violence directly” (Baldry, 56). This is disturbing. According to Sabrina Franca, director of the Maree Antiviolence Center in Rome, “Violence is a cultural problem. Men were not punished if they were sexually abusing women. Until 1996, we still didn’t have a law against sexual violence…For example, according to an old Italian legislation, a man could kill his wife, if she was cheating on him” (RT). Old laws like this are horrendous and allow domestic violence to prevail, as the culture’s mindset has not changed. In 2009, it was found that approximately seven million women were survivors of domestic violence (RT).
What can we do? For starters, Berlusconi needs to be removed from office, but deeper than that, there needs to be a societal shift in Italian beliefs/ideas, and how these relate to gender roles. A re-socializaiton needs to happen. This, of course, needs to happen in the U.S. as well.