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Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets of 200 Italian cities on 13 February calling for “dignity” and greater rights for women, Rebecca Anderson
The call for respect is due to the country’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi constant sexist jibes and the way the media he controls treat women as little more than sex objects.
But it is not just a question of jokes and TV programmes. The world’s media have been full of stories of his personal exploitation of young and under aged women at sex parties. Now he is to go on trial on 6 April, charged with paying a 17-year old Moroccan girl and trying to cover it up by abusing his powers as prime minister.
Berlusconi has already faced 106 trials, on charges varying from collusion with the mafia to bribery of police officers and judges. In three of these cases, he used his majority in parliament to force the judiciary to drop the charges. On others, the €174 million he has spent on top lawyers did the trick.
Berlusconi is Italy’s richest man, with personal wealth of $9 billion, and owner of most of its popular media. He is also a personal friend of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and was one of the few world leaders to stand by Mubarak in his final days in office.
But Berlusconi’s sexism is only the tip of the iceberg of the inequality women face in Italy. A recent report on the global gender gap puts Italy 74th out of 134 countries.
- Women are paid 16.8 per cent less than men
- Fewer than half of women have a job compared to 59 per cent in the European Union.
- Women represent only 21 per cent of government ministers, less than 20 per cent of MPs, 6.8 per cent on the boards of publicly quoted companies and only 3.8 per cent of their CEOs.
But recent months have seen not only the women’s march but also major demonstrations against Berlusconi’s attack on the public services.
If this movement – in which women play an important part – grows then it will be able to drive Gaddafi’s friend from power.
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