FEATURE-Demos planned as Italy mulls LGBT+ hate crime law for the sixth time

In this news, we discuss the FEATURE-Demos planned as Italy mulls LGBT+ hate crime law for the sixth time.

ROME, October 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – When Marlon Landolfo kissed his date at a party, onlookers started heckling, a fight broke out and his friend ended up in hospital – the last of a series of anti-gay attacks in Italy where plans to combat homophobic violence are hotly contested. “They threw insults at us,” said Landolfo, 22, describing how he and Mattias Fascina, 26, were pushed to the ground, kicked and punched, in the northern city of Padua. Italy last month.

“When a friend who was with us told them to leave, a guy gave him a head butt,” he said, adding that the friend was then hit on the head with a glass bottle, requiring 10 stitches. Police were not immediately available for comment, but local media reported that four men and a woman had been charged with bodily harm, carrying sentences of up to three years in prison.

Gay rights advocates said such incidents underscore the need for a law that specifically recognizes LGBT + hate crimes in Italy, which the ILGA-Europe advocacy group ranks as one of the worst countries in Europe. Westerner to be gay, bisexual or trans. An anti-discrimination bill has sparked heated political debate in the southern European country, with rival protests planned in Rome on Saturday and supporters of the bill are expected to take to the streets in around 50 cities.

A pro-reform rally drew around 3,000 people in Milan last week, according to local media, most wearing masks amid a spike in new coronavirus infections, which reached a new daily high of 8,804 on Thursday. Parliament is due to vote next week on the bill that would include LGBT + people and women in an existing law that criminalizes discrimination and incitement to violence based on a person’s race or religion, with sentences of up to four years.

Arcigay, Italy’s largest LGBT + rights group, registers more than 100 cases of hate crimes and discrimination each year, but numerous attempts over the past 25 years to create a law punishing acts of homophobia and of transphobia have failed. Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016 after facing stiff opposition from Catholic groups, backed by the Vatican’s presence in Rome, but it does not allow gay marriage.

Two in three LGBT + Italians avoid holding hands with loved ones in public for fear of harassment or assault, according to a European Union survey. “If people can’t show affection and just be who they are out of fear … (public) institutions have to step in,” said Alessandro Zan, an openly gay lawmaker from the center-left Democratic Party , who designed the bill.

If passed, the law will also spend 4 million euros ($ 4.7 million) per year on LGBT + shelters and fund campaigns to tackle homophobia and transphobia, Zan said. FREEDOM AND LOSS OF HAIR

Although supported by the ruling coalition, the anti-discrimination bill has met fierce resistance from the opposition – including the far-right League, Italy’s most popular party – and the church Catholic. Opposition parties have tabled hundreds of amendments in an attempt to derail reform, including calling for the bill to punish discrimination based on weight, poor hygiene, baldness and ignorance.

The League and its allies, the Brothers of Italy, which together gather around 40% of the vote according to recent polls, have criticized the bill as unnecessary and an attack on free speech. “There is no discrimination in Italy … and all the possible sanctions and punishments one can think of are already in place,” League leader Matteo Salvini said at a press conference in July.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference – an influential body of the Catholic Church – called the proposal “killing freedom.” Conservative campaign group Pro Life and Family said the bill would make LGBT + people “more equal than others” and lead to teaching about homosexuality in schools through its advocacy initiative. homophobia.

“To say that two men do not make a mother is a fact, not homophobia,” said its vice president, Jacopo Coghe, adding that the proposed law could make it a crime to express such views. Zan denied that the bill would infringe on free speech, punishing only those who incite hatred, and said the far-right opposition was aimed at rallying support from socially conservative voters.

Only 59% of Italians think there is nothing wrong with same-sex relationships, compared to 95% of Swedes and well below an EU average of 72%, according to a Eurobarometer poll by the last year. “(The opposition) is using spurious arguments and lacking the courage to say that they don’t want this law because it is against the rights of LGBT people,” Zan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Saying ‘let’s kill gays tomorrow’ – that’s not freedom of speech,” said Zan, who received death threats ahead of the parliamentary vote. If the bill passes the lower house, it will move to the Senate, where the latest LGBT + hate crimes bill ran aground without being passed in 2013 and the ruling coalition holds a larger majority. thin.

If Italy votes to ban anti-LGBT + violence and discrimination, it would mark “a very important step towards equality for all its citizens,” said Akram Kubanychbekov, an advocacy officer for LGBT + group ILGA-Europe . Landolfo said the law would help him and other victims of LGBT + hate crimes feel more secure.

“These types of attacks are an ongoing problem,” he said. “The law does not solve the problem but can help. What we really need is education, as we are still light years away from full social acceptance.

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News Highlights:

  • An anti-discrimination bill has sparked heated political debate in the southern European country, with rival protests planned in Rome on Saturday and supporters of the bill are expected to take to the streets in around 50 cities. A pro-reform rally drew around 3,000 people in Milan last week, according to local media, most wearing masks amid a spike in new coronavirus infections, which reached a new daily high of 8,804 on Thursday.
  • FEATURE-Demos scheduled as Italy reflects on LGBT + hate crimes law for sixth time
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