Italian capital sees women on streets to protest against Berlusconi

09:23, February 14, 2011      

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Crowds gather at the People's Plaza during a mass protest against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex scandals in Rome, Italy, Feb. 13, 2011. Tens of thousands of women took to the streets across the country to protest against the "sexual exploitation and negative feminine image" that in their view Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has contributed in spreading through his various sex scandals. (Xinhua/Wang Qingqin)

Thousands of Italian women, led by actresses and intellectuals, took to the streets of Rome on Sunday to protest against the "sexual exploitation and negative feminine image" that in their view Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has contributed in spreading through his various sex scandals.

Piazza del Popolo, in the heart of the capital, was literally packed with women of all ages.

When popular actress Isabella Aragonese stepped on the stage and asked the protesters "if not now, then when" was the most appropriate moment for Berlusconi to resign, the ladies replied in unison "Now", waving slogans and posters against the biased cliche of women that has destroyed "feminine dignity and culture".

While a gigantic poster launched from the above Pincio Terrace floated in the air demanding "respect for all women", solidarity messages and emails of women who could not take part in the protest were read out loud by four young Roman actresses, triggering applauses amid gospel choir songs of Aretha Franklin.

All such ado rotates around the news that Berlusconi might soon face a trial for minor prostitution and abuse of power for his alleged intimate relationship with an 18-year-old Moroccan dancer nicknamed "Ruby".

According to the prosecutors Ruby is just one of the many escorts and showgirls-turned-MPs who in the last years have surrounded the premier.

Following the sex scandal, a debate has sparked in the country on the role, rights and reputation of Italian women in general.

"We're not all prostitutes, but then again I have nothing against sex workers except the stereotype of which they are victims. We also have a brain and I am here today to testify this. Berlusconi would like us all to be like Ruby, sexual objects of his power. But we have rights and we are free," 25-year-old student Carla Menni told Xinhua.

Carla said that she felt her dignity abused and was upset by the foreign press' picture of Italian women.

"Abroad Italy has become the country where even starlets can become ministers, and this is thanks to Berlusconi. But we must never forget that Italy boasts many women researchers and Nobel prize winners, take for example Life Senator Rita Levi Montalcini. Women have contributed in making this country," she stressed.

Carla's mother is standing beside her, holding a burlesque glittery umbrella. "I'm neither a starlet nor a scientist but I have succeeded in creating a solid family and bringing satisfactorily up my two daughters. I'm pretty proud of such accomplishments because being a good mother and a good wife is another winning asset of Italian women," she observed.

Taking part in the manifestation were not just simply women journalists like state-television anchorwoman Serena Dandini, writers and MPs of the opposition parties including former minister Livia Turco, but also men who decided to accompany their wives and girlfriends.

"I honestly don't like all these political tensions and sex scandals,"complained pensioner Flavio Di Gennario. "The manipulation and degradation of the female culture has reached intolerable levels, I have daughters and I can't stand this."

Yet Berlusconi's possible sex trial divides Italian women in two blocks: those who took to the streets and those who during the past week called for a "women protest strike".

Undersecretary of State Daniela Santanche, one of the most powerful women MPs of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, is bewildered by the demonstrations.

"Women should not be proud of what they have done, rather than a day of freedom and party I see a day of mourning for Italy's feminine world that has stepped back in time," she told Xinhua.

"These city protests are simply the expression of one political side that wants to get Berlusconi out of the way, that fights against him just because he's a man, not a prime minister. The women who have taken to the streets are not really defending their rights nor making any precise requests but have simply been exploited by the opposition parties, they represent just one small part of all Italian women," she argued.

According to Santanche by protesting against their negative image exploitation the women demonstrate that they are, in fact, pure instruments of man's power.

"These ladies are affected by the anti-Berlusconi feminist syndrome. They demonstrate just for the sake and pleasure of doing it. Indeed, it's not a good, exemplary day for Italian women," she said.

Source: Xinhua
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