Photo: Giuliana di Febo
Article by Elena Dalibot
Translation by Joanne Hamilton
In comparison to an ordinary Sunday on the hill of the Sacré Coeur in Paris, it is not so much the bells of the basilica that were heard on the 13th February, rather pots and pans and other kitchen utensils which were drummed by a hundred or so protestors, both male and female alike. They demanded the resignation of the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and called for the “dignity of the woman”, in a country where less than half of women have remunerated employment and only one child out of ten has a place in a nursery. In many European cities and all over the world, for example in Brussels, Madrid, Geneva, Berlin, London and Stockholm, processions were organised for this weekend. This was an act of support for the 230 protests that have taken place across Italy, notably in Rome, Milan, Genoa and Palermo, attracting hundreds of thousands of men and women.
These spontaneous protests around the world are a result of the ‘Ruby-gate’ scandal, a story prominent in the news over the last few months, about how “Il Cavaliere” (the “Cavalier”) was offered sexual favours by Karima « Ruby » El Mahroug (at the time a minor) between February and May 2010. More generally, corruption, fiscal fraud and especially the way in which Berlusconi treats women and the image of women he portrays in the media, are added to the various scandals in which Berlusconi is implicated. Women are reduced to their physical appearance, without intellectual legitimacy, dependent on wealthy and powerful men in order to succeed. The slogans chanted are echoed throughout the world: “Resignation, resignation, resignation”, “Basta Berlusconi!”, “If not today, when?” In support of organizations such as Corrente Rosa fighting against the discrimination of women, numerous artists, intellectuals, trade unionists and members of parliament were present to make their anger heard. These included the film director Cristina Comencini, the leader of the largest Italian union the (CGIL), Susanna Camusso, and the chief editor of a prominent leftist newspaper, l’Unità, Concita De Gregorio.
In Paris, the protest attracted men, women and children, both Italian and French; Giuliana, an Italian, helped to circulate information and protested on Sunday until the police broke up the gathering. According to her, “the dignity of the woman is a right, a very old struggle for which it is sad that we must still fight. In the media system set up by Berlusconi the message is that he represents the only hope in society and that there is no alternative. For him, women are not worthy of fighting a political battle with him on the basis of argumentation, as his views toward his political opponent Rosy Bindi highlight (vice-president of the House of Representatives whom he declared to be “more beautiful than intelligent” at the end of 2009). Many people are blind to him: he controls the media as a platform for his rhetoric. However, this protest shows that a social conscience is rising in opposition. The image that all the protests in Italy and around the world create is strong and I hope that it will allow us to overcome the media barrage that threatens to undermine this fight for the dignity of women.”
Tuesday 15th February, the public prosecutor in Milan demanded the trial of Berlusconi for paying a minor for sex, for which he could face a three year jail term, and also for abusing his role, which could entail a twelve year prison sentence. The Prime Minister of Italy does not have any intention of being present at the trial and has accused the judges of having political motive. The protests of this weekend are, according to him, the expression of “puritan women”. It remains to be seen what the three women (Carmen D'Elia, Orsolina De Cristofaro et Giulia Turri) who make up the panel judging the Prime Minister on the 6th April 2011 in the court of Milan will decide. At the same moment in the spring of 2011 the convention on the status of women will take place in Italy. “We are not fighting solely against Berlusconi, but against a whole political system”, explained Giuliana. “Ruby-gate is not simply a matter of his private life or of his own morality as he claims, but it is a case of law! If we must abandon the idea of justice, the fundamental element of democracy, we are moving into the realm of a dictatorship.”