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

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.

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

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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CRIME

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

Authorities in New York announced on Thursday the return to Italy of 14 more antiquities, worth an estimated €2.3 million, as part of an investigation into smuggling of stolen artifacts.

New York returns 214 stolen artworks to Italy in seven months

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has been conducting an extensive investigation over the past two years into looted antiquities that have ended up in New York museums and galleries — including the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art.

During a ceremony on Thursday with the Italian consul general and Italian police representatives, 14 more artifacts – some 2,600 years old – were officially returned to Italy, bringing the total number of repatriated pieces to that country over the past seven months to 214, District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said.

READ ALSO: Italian ‘art squad’ police recover 800 illegally-excavated archaeological finds

More than 700 pieces worth more than $100 million have been returned in the past year to 17 countries, including Italy as well as Cambodia, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, and Greece, the statement added.

New York, a hub of stolen antiquities trafficking for decades, set up a task force in 2017 to investigate the illicit trade.

According to the statement by District Attorney Bragg, who took office in January 2022, Thursday’s repatriation included the silver “Sicily Naxos Coin,” minted around 430 BCE and currently valued at half a million dollars.

Other notable items included ancient pottery dating to 510 BCE, and amarble head of Roman Emperor Hadrian, dating to 200 CE.

Among the culprits behind the 14 returned pieces, the statement said, were well-known art traffickers Giacomo Medici and Giovanni Franco Becchina, as well as Robert Hecht, the Paris-based American art dealer who died in 2012.

The traffickers had “relied on gangs of tombaroli (tomb raiders) to loot carefully chosen and insufficiently guarded archaeological sites throughout the Mediterranean,” it added.

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