Thursday, September 03, 2009

Rampant homophobia in Berlusconi's Italy

From beatings, stabbings and arson attacks to bombs going off in Rome's "gay village". Life for sexual minorities in Italy is not looking safe.

More news about Italy's rapid journey to a 21st century version of European fascism. In the past we've already documented the alarming rise in anti-immigrant attacks, the legalisation of vigilante groups (including the adoption of dubious symbolism) and the implementation at local and national level of punitive measures against ethnic minorities (i.e. the so-called 'kebab ban').

Italy's rampant homophobia is another reason for concern. Since some seriously ugly rhetoric was the soundtrack to the right's electoral triumph in 2008, anti-LGB attacks have been piling up. August 2009 was the worst month on record across the whole country, with a worrying daily escalation of street aggressions (including stabbings and attempted murder). Last week, a popular gay nightclub in Rome was the target of an arson attack, while last night two bombs were thrown in the midst of what is known as the capital's 'Gay Village'.

As passers-by chased after the culprits, they soon had to relent as one of the bombers produced a gun and managed to run off. Opposition MP Pier Luigi Bersani spoke of a "civil emergency" and called for the government to pass urgent measures to tackle homophobic crime.

On to more developments, in the past few days billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that he's sueing a number of newspapers, Italian and foreign for writing about his sexual scandals and asking questions he slammed as libellous. As he's seeking damages of up to 1m, to many this looks like an attempt to gag the press.

Two days ago, a newspaper editor mildly critical of the PM's recent sexual scandals was publicly smeared with a front-page story (later exposed as unfounded) in one of Berlusconi's own national dailies as a closeted homosexual and convicted stalker. Some observers called it a latter day (and more effective) version of force-feeding castor oil to political opponents - a strategy the old brown shirts were notoriously very fond of.

1 comment:

John said...

I am really pleased you have raised this issue. The Italian people as a majority are unfortunately particularly intolerant and particularly against their GLBT community. Although a foundation member state and signing charters against discrimination based on sexual orientation Italy has not in fact improved the situation for its own GLBT community. They pretend to be European, embracing European values and human rights while actually doing nothing. It is an extremely dishonest way of working and one that is not possible to have respect for.
I have been in a same sex relationship with an Italian citizen for over ten years. We tried to move to Italy so my partner could be closer to his elderly mother . It was a real eye opener – we were treated badly by many public officials for daring to ask for a immigration rights (I am non EU). Five years we battled in the Italian Court system where Judges rules that our relationship was in contrast to Italian public order – hard to believe Italy is in Europe. Recently we had to flee the country and live in exile in another EU state because the Berlusconi government has introduced extremely punitive law for those in the country with an irregular visa status – such as GLBT people trying to manage family relationship and keeping their relationship together. I think many people will be particularly disappointed with the Italian people when they learn just how intolerant and mean of a society it has turned out to be! Strength to the brave Italian minority that have tried to build a better society but have largely lost the battle.