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Well, at least it’s not racial. Sorta.

Saw this article today, about an “emergency” rape law passed in Italy:

Italy’s government has rushed through a decree to crack down on sexual violence and illegal immigration after a spate of rapes blamed on foreigners.

What’s “a spate”? Must be quite a few, to justify the swift passage of a new law, I’m thinking. A virtual epidemic. But no. It’s three. They happened in one weekend, but still. Three.

The decree sets a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is killed.

Well, that sounds good to me. Harsh sentences for rape are exactly as they should be. And further along in the article it mentions that trials for rapists will be speeded up, and more resources will be focused towards helping the victims. All good, in my book.

But then I saw this…

It also establishes rules for citizen street patrols to be conducted by unarmed and unpaid volunteers.

Wait just a damn minute.

Is the Italian government now seriously authorizing citizen vigilante squads? Which will ostensibly target any immigrant who might rape somebody? Is it just me, or does this sound like an unbelievably stupid fucking idea?

Oh, wait, it’s not just me.

Critics say the measures could effectively legitimise vigilantism and xenophobia. The Vatican has warned against anything that turns innocent foreigners into convenient scapegoats.

::foreheadslap:: Oh, well, OK, as long as the Vatican agrees with me.

what is the world coming to

This is stupid. This is all kinds of stupid. This is a license for mass bigotry. Not that this kind of bigotry needed a license:

Many recent rapes have been blamed on foreigners, especially Romanians. Violent attacks on immigrants have since been reported.

Police say a mob of around 20 masked men beat up four Romanians outside a kebab restaurant in Rome on Sunday in an apparent vigilante attack.

The government has pointed to official statistics saying immigrants committed as many as 35% of crimes in Italy in 2007.

But analysts and opposition parties say many of these are related to breaches in immigration rules, and that foreigners have often been unfairly targeted amid a xenophobic backlash from right-wing politicians and the media.

The Roma (Gypsy) community, many of whom are long-standing Italian residents, have often borne the brunt of this reaction, they say.

Authorities in the capital began dismantling unauthorised camps housing Roma groups amid an outcry over recent rapes earlier this week.

Officials statistics put Italy’s Romanian community at more than 600,000, making it the largest immigrant group in the country.

Some Roma are Romanian, but many are from other Balkan countries and some hold Italian citizenship.

They can’t even keep Roma and Romanians straight. How the flying frilly fuck does this make sense?

No one can control a lynch mob. It is impossible to impose “rules” on violent vigilantes. Berlusconi must be smoking the good stuff if he honestly thinks he can regulate hate. It just doesn’t work that way.

My prediction: there will be deaths as a result of this. There will be more rapes of Italians, and they will go unpunished because now all an Italian rapist has to do is gibber something in Romanian to confuse the victim and the system will run off to scapegoat some poor schmuck who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have the wrong accent. Rapes of immigrants will also increase and go unpunished, because that’s what happens when you unleash a mob on an oppressed population; some of these “citizen vigilantes” will decide on an eye for an eye. Not to mention that I doubt any of those new resources being allocated towards victims will actually be applied to all victims, regardless of national origin. No one will be safer, but Berlusconi’s popularity ratings will probably go up, because he will be seen to have “done something”. Even though it’s something abysmally stupid.

I visited Italy — Sicily, specifically — about 5 years ago. Beautiful country, great food, lovely people. The only ugly note in the trip was my encounter with a convenience store shopkeeper, who was quite hostile until I opened my mouth and mangled some Italian with my American accent. Then she went Dr. Jekyll on me in an instant, smiling and pleasant. But as I went outside to drink my cappuccino and noodle this, a fellow shopper — a black man from Sierra Leone — spoke to me and pointed out to me that she’d charged him twice as much as she charged me. “That’s how it is here,” he said. “Pretty on the surface, crazy underneath.”

Sounds like it’s about to get a whole lot crazier.

22 thoughts on “Well, at least it’s not racial. Sorta.”

  1. Anna Feruglio Dal Dan says:

    It *is* totally racial. Berlusconi went to power by forcing an alliance with the xenophobic – but you can more correctly call it racist – party, the Northern League. And he’s giving them what they want. I wish I could say that Italians are opposed to this, but seeing as they elected him three times and the opposition has just crumbled, I won’t.

    And people still ask me why I left Italy. The sun! the food! the way of life! yeah.

    This whole business “started” with the rape and murder in Rome of a woman who was going home at night, and was attacked at a bus stop. The rapists where people of the local slum, who were denounced by their own community. They were in fact Romanian – not Roma. In fact the slum is inhabited by all sort of marginal people, with a good helping of immigrants. The fact that they are a menace to society derives in great part from the fact that if you force people in slum, living in cardboard houses with no electricity and sewage, and subjected to regular police raids, they tend not to be saints, although a lot of the people thus living in Rome are actually decent people. Sometimes decent people who have been made criminal by Italian law, which now punishes illegal immigration with jailtime. (Not that the US can throw a lot of stones here.)

    After that, the slum got flattened by earth movers sent by the mayor of Rome. I don’t know where the people went, but it doesn’t take long to re-assemble a cardboard house.

    Other things that have happened in the meanwhile include, but are not limited to: people going on with their bathing, sunning and playing beachball next to the corpses of two Roma girls who had drowned trying to save a young relative. The two girls had been selling ice-creams on the beach.

    Various assaults on random “immigrants”, including burning an Indian man sleeping in the Rome railway station alive.

    And yes, suddenly the news were full of women being raped by immigrants, tipically Romanian. Italians didn’t use to confuse Romenian with Rom (who tipically do NOT come from Romania, but from the ex-Yugoslavja.) The fact that they now apparently don’t is simply an indication that their racism has been extended from the customary target (the Roma) to everybody sounding vaguely foreign.

    Of course, we don’t get told in such gruesome detail of all the women, including of course immigrant women, who are raped by Italians. Given the numbers, I’d say that is the vast majority of them.

    As for vigilante bands, well, that was a conditon imposed by the League for their alliance. Before Berlusconi came to power some valiant judge tried to indict the “Green guards” for terrorism, but, well, but Berlusconi intervened. That is why the League suddenly started agreeing with him about the urgent, vital necessity of bringing the judiciary under the power of the executive branch. Oh yeah, because that’s what’s been happening in Italy, although it doesn’t make the news like calling Obama “tanned”.

    This is ALL racist. The Northern League, which has a voter support of 30% in some places of Italy (like the one I used to live in) started off way before immigration was remotely an issue in Italy by inciting hatred against the Southern population. When I heard that the deputy mayor of Lampedusa is from the League I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Sicilians are better and worse than the rest of Italians. Most fishing vessels around the island are crewed at least in part by Moroccans or Tunisians or Lybians. This doesn’t stop people being just as racist towards “immigrants” as the rest of Italy. You got treated well because you are American, and Americans in Italy are always white, no matter the color of their skin.

    Berlusconi was elected by managing to hike two different forces to his chariot: the mob system in the South and the xenophobic right. Other people in other parts of Europe have rejected this alliance and paid the price for it. Chirac had, at one point, the possibility of getting Le Pen on board and winning the election. He said no and lost, and he knew he would have.

    In modern democracy, sometimes it’s the lunatic fringe that gives you that edge, if you are amoral enough to ally youself to it, and Berlusconi is the most throughly amoral bastard we’ve had in Italian politics since the war, and that is SAYING SOMETHING. He was responsible himself for feeding the beast of base instincts in Italians. But yeah – with the Republican Party, it was the religious right. With Berlusconi, as with other European politician, it’s the racist parties. They are never big, but they swing enough votes.

    I always knew that Americans didn’t deserve Bush. Italians, however, do deserve Berlusconi.

    Damn. I had managed to avoid getting my pressure up about Italy for all of two days now…

  2. nojojojo says:

    Damn, Anna. Maybe we should add an “angry Italian woman” guest blogger to the site. =)

    Yes, I’d heard about the slum razings, and a lot of other ugly stuff that’s been happening throughout Italy for the past few years. I’d wondered how this whole “anti-Roma/Romanian” thing might be affecting the Southern Italians, since they tend to be darker-complected than the northerners. Didn’t realize there was a whole anti-southern party, though. That’s majorly batshit. What do they want to do, break up the country?

    I knew Italy was in for some stupid shit when they reelected Berlusconi for the bajillionth time, but this? I seriously wasn’t expecting this.

  3. Adam says:

    Now the both of you have got me wanting to know more about the dynamics of Italian politics. I have followed Irish, British, Central American, and French politics over the years and thought I was receiving enough drama.

    My wife will probably be sending a nasty note to this forum because once I start learning something I tend to become a recluse until I am satisfied that I know enough.

  4. yareach says:

    “What do they want to do, break up the country?”

    Pretty much.

  5. Baiskeli says:

    I’m African, and from what I’ve heard from Africans who’ve ever had the misfortune of finding themselves there, Italy is a special kind of scary for Africans and Roma (African-Americans get a pass, as ‘Anna’ points out and your experience illustrates).

    There definitely seems to be a Fortress Europe mentality going on all over Europe due to demographics (lower white birth rate, increased need for immigration due to aging populations, good old xenophobia and racism etc) but Italy is definitely off the charts (though Russia bests them as far as lethality goes).

    1. Msday says:

      “I’m African, and from what I’ve heard from Africans who’ve ever had the misfortune of finding themselves there, Italy is a special kind of scary for Africans and Roma (African-Americans get a pass, as ‘Anna’ points out and your experience illustrates).”

      One of the reasons it is a scary place for Africans is due to the increase in illegal immigrants who are pouring into Italy. However, there is also the misfortune of having the African immigrants who arrive and make it bad for other Africans via rampant prostitution, panhandling, and selling knock off products on the beach. In the south, the Africans are now foot soldiers for the Mafia, Yes, the Mafia. It is very similar to the drug trafficking and immigration problems we are having in the states.

  6. Matt says:

    Don;t forget – the Italian Supreme Court has ruled it’s ok to fingerprint all Roma (including children) because, in their view, everyone knows the Roma are thieves. It’s been this serious for a while now.

  7. Noir says:

    Oh fucking hell. As in bigotry towards Roma people wasn’t already bad in Italy. Fucking stupid government.

  8. Oliver FP says:

    I saw this earlier today, and immediately thought – wait, rape sentences are now tougher because “foreigners” have been raping?

    “They come over here, stealing our rapes… Good Italian rape, none of this funny foreign stuff”?

    I mean, the racism is the most obvious thing, especially considering the current situation in Italy… but the sexism is second – you really do get the feeling that if there was an actual “spate” of rapes by Italian-born men, it would be considered Just Fine, because they’re Our Women to do as we please with…

    Of course, there probably is a spate of rapes by Italian men, probably of immigrant women, as everybody said… because that’s what happens when a government instructs people to hate and fear other people.

  9. Pingback: Sexual Violence in Italy Used to Support Racist Immigration Policies : The Curvature
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  11. babae says:

    Berlusconi also wants to create special schools only for migrant children. he reasons that it will solve the language problem. everybody knows that he wants the immigrants to be second-class citizens in italy.
    recently, there was an outrage in lampedusa, an italian island, where they keep the refugees coming from africa and are treated as criminals. many were injured.

  12. ms. pitbull says:

    I’ve heard that Italy is incredibly sexist, (remember the tight jeans and rape thing) and the racisim doesn’t surprise me either.

  13. JupiterPluvius says:

    Also Albanians.

    Yeah, I think it’s racist. It’s all about the horrible scary Rom and Albanians and North Africans.

  14. mama says:

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    in my visions i kept seeing a women and transfolk of color blog. one that was updated daily with our news, analysis, announcements, personal reflections, conversations, and more. a location on the net where we, from our different perspectives and lives, are able to give voice to us. where we agree and disagree, and stay in conversation.

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  15. AsaDoesntCareAboutYou says:

    sounds like good ole fashioned fascism to me ( mixed in with the right amount of racism and xenophobia).
    The citizen patrols are even scarier. Now you can be put away because your neighbor things your raping someone, and don’t depend on a reasonable trial. Ekkk!!

  16. emma says:

    I’m a little confused about the Roma/Romanian confusion. Are these two independendtly marginalized ethnic groups with a name that happens to sound similar, or is there really a significant number of involved people who don’t know the difference?

    1. Msday says:

      “I’m a little confused about the Roma/Romanian confusion. Are these two independendtly marginalized ethnic groups with a name that happens to sound similar, or is there really a significant number of involved people who don’t know the difference?”

      Emma, Romani’s as they are called here in Italy are what the Italians call people known as Gypsy’s. They refer to them as Romani because many of them are concentrated in Romania. However, the Gypsy’s are in many ways the “blacks” of Europe. They are originally an ethnicity that came to Europe in the thirteenth century on their own and because they were not white, they were enslaved in various parts of Europe. They were often sold in groups and when they finally were set free, they continued this tradition of traveling in large groups. They generally were set free with nothing, NOTHING to help them assimilate into society. So they for centuries have led lives centered around traveling, and criminal activity. Not all are bad, and a lot of hatred against them is racially motivated.
      The Roma are descendants or citizens of Rome, Italy and Yes, people definitely can tell the difference.

  17. Valerie says:

    Hey Anna, did Italy’s legal system ever get around to declaring it sexual harassment when a manager smacks his secretary’s butt? Cause that would go a long way towards helping me think they’re sincerely concerned about the sexual safety of women.

  18. Benjamin Rosenbaum says:

    It’s kind of sickly fascinating how racism is different yet interconnected in different national contexts. On the one hand, Anna’s observation that “in Italy all Americans are white regardless of skin color” — which shows that racism is more about power than consistency. On the other hand, Italy’s own internal racism is connected to the broader kind, as evinced by that popular poster (you could buy it in the stalls of the market in Florence 15 years ago) with a map of Italy labelled “Northern Italy” from the Swiss border through Bologna, “Southern Italy” from Bologna through Rome, and “Africa” South of Rome.

    The Southern Italians stand accused, essentially, of being _too African_.

  19. Katie says:

    Sometimes I think about writing certain ministers in Italy a letter saying that I’d been planning to make it the first place I traveled again when I again traveled outside the United States, since I enjoyed it so much when I was there, but it was neutral linguistic ground for my boyfriend and me. But that I wouldn’t be going there until their policies towards XYZ peoples changed (and name examples of things I’d be looking to see change).

    I dunno–I try to remember to work on fighting domestic hate w/ 90% of my energy for that sort of thing, which is why I was thinking of something so lame as a, “I was going to go to Italy, but now I won’t until you do something!” letter. Seemed to fit into the 10% I’ve told myself is appropriate to set aside for foreign affairs.

  20. Ustinov says:

    Things are only going to get worse in Italy – fascism is on the rise. As Italy sinks below many other nations in terms of economic and military might, Italians are starting to “revere” Mussolini. The Black-shirts (the italian version of the brown-shirts) are back in fashion – hell, even one of Mussolini’s descendants (a fascist party member and a good friend of the current Prime Minister) is currently in the government. There was a documentary on the BBC – it showed a young man, about maybe 17 years old, dressed all in black, holding a gun and standing to attention at a shrine dedicated to Mussolini. That was a scary image.

    If things don’t change soon, Italy could quite quickly become a fascist state again. Remember, in bad economic times, populations often look for “strong” leaders.

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