Italy is now among the most advanced nations in terms of the fight against sexual violence', said equal opportunities minister Mara Carfagna. ‘Starting today, Italian women can feel safer. The season of zero tolerance against those who commit crimes against them has begun.'
The Italian Senate recently approved an emergency decree increasing the penalties for sexual harassments and assaults. Dubbed the ‘anti-rape' decree, it also declares stalking a crime.
The legislation comes in response to a series of high-profile rapes and increasing reports of stalking. The decree introduces tough punishments, including life sentences for those who sexually assault and murder their victim as well as increased sentences for those who rape a minor or who are involved in gang rapes.
In addition, the law requires that suspected rapists be kept in custody rather than be granted house arrest and guarantees free legal assistance to rape victims. Among the anti-stalking measures introduced are prison terms ranging from six months to four years for repeated threats or harassment.
Since the legislation was first activated in February by the cabinet, 102 people have been arrested for stalking and another 132 are under investigation.
Originally, the decree included clauses concerning illegal immigration and the use of citizen patrols; however, when these proved controversial, they were eliminated with a veto by the lower house.
For example, members of parliament voted to remove a clause that would have extended the amount of time illegal immigrants could be held in identification and expulsion centres from two to six months.
Another measure that was voted out would have permitted unarmed citizen patrols to help police monitor high-crime areas; this provision is said to likely reappear, however, in separate crime legislation.