Italy prepares for a fight with proposed anti-homophobia law
Different factions in Italy are readying for a fight as a long-awaited law that would punish discrimination and hate against the LGBTQ community is being prepared.
While Italian lawmakers will be debating the draft legislation in parliament soon, far-right parties and religious groups will be contesting the bill.
Italy preparing to push anti-homophobia law
This is not the first time that gay rights in Italy have been pushed to become law, but the previous four efforts had not succeeded.
The new law would sanction people who discriminate against LGBTQ people with up to four years imprisonment. Discrimination would be based on sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as gender-based violence.
If this bill is approved, it would be an extension of an existing Italian law– the “legge Mancino” or Mancino Law that punishes racist violence, hatred, and discrimination. It would also criminalize misogyny.
Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesperson for Rome-based Gay Centre, reported about 20,000 cases of discrimination against LGBT people a year. Of this number, nine percent are severe.
However, Marrazzo said, “Many do not report the discrimination as their families do not know about their sexuality.”
Even Alessandro Zan, architect of the draft legislation and a gay MP of the Democratic Party, received a death threat from an online opponent.
Opponents say law against freedom of expression
Those against the proposed law– including Matteo Salvini and the far-right Northern League political party and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy– have said this would suppress freedom of expression.
During a protest in Rome last July, Salvini said: “I’m here to defend the right of a child to have a mother and a father. Tomorrow I don’t want to be tried for defending family rights.”
Meanwhile, Meloni said Zan’s law is “a crime against opinion.”
On the side with the far-right parties is pro-life groups and the Italian bishops’ Episcopal Conference (CEI), which said the passage of the bill would signal “the death of liberty.”
The religious institution said: “An unbiased analysis of the regulations for people’s protection in our legal system points to the conclusion that there are already enough criteria to prevent and repress any violent or intolerant behavior.”
Meanwhile, a priest in Sicily said in a sermon: “If you express an opinion against homosexuals, or don’t agree with two men adopting a child, you could end up in jail.”
Italy’s patriarchal culture versus call for diversity
However, Zan debunked the accusation that this suppresses freedom of expression and said this is “fake news.” He explained: “The law works to fight discrimination, not limit the freedom of thought.”
“They are using LGBT people as an enemy to fly an ideological flag and ignite hatred, rather than discuss the merits of the law,” he added.
Zan said, “The law does not punish freedom of opinion at all. Rather, it can contribute to promoting cultural change in the perception of the LGBT+ world.”
A recent Eurobarometer survey reported that 55 percent of Italians accepted the LGBTQ people. This is below the EU average of 72 percent.
Monica Cirinnà, a senator of the Democratic party, said: “Italy has been reluctant to embrace diversity because people are pigeonholed in gender stereotypes due to a mixture of deeply-rooted patriarchal and Catholic culture.”
Luisa Rizzitelli, an LGBT activist, said: “Italy is behind in respect of accepting diversity. But if we ask people if they want to make hatred against LGBT people a crime, I truly believe they would say yes.”