If the Vatican and mega-influence Chiara Ferragni are openly on the opposite side of the same debate, with the entire political spectrum and much of public opinion, it is a sign that the subject is hot in Italy. And, next week, the temperature is set to rise even more.
After 25 years of trying, the country has its most concrete chance to pass a law that criminalizes violent and discriminatory acts against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people.
Among the 27 members of the European Union, Italy is among the five nations which have no form of censorship against crimes and hate speech against the minority, along with Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Bulgaria. In Brazil, in the absence of an anti-homotransphobia law, the STF authorized, in 2019, the criminalization of harmful acts of this type.
The situation in Italy could start to change from Tuesday (13), when the Senate begins the process of examining and voting on a bill bringing together measures to combat and prevent discrimination and violence based on sex. , gender, sexual orientation, gender identity. and handicap.
“This is the first time that such a bill has been discussed in both houses of Parliament. It has never happened before,” said lawyer Francesca Rupalti, vice-president of the Lenford network, specializing in LGBTI rights. In 2013, another bill was approved in the Chamber of Deputies, but in the following years it was blocked in the Senate, never entering the plenary agenda.
The current project was born about a year ago, from the meeting of five proposals – in which women and people with disabilities were included -, and was approved in November 2020 by the House, by 265 votes in favor, 193 against and one abstention. In the Italian press, it is called “DDL Zan”, short for “disegno di legge” – a bill in Portuguese – and bears the name of its rapporteur, the center-left MP Alessandro Zan (Democratic Party).
After working for seven months on the Senate justice committee, amid obstructive actions by center-right parties, he arrived in plenary in an unprecedented way. Ten articles update the Penal Code and the 1993 Mancino Law against hate crimes and incitement to hatred on racial, ethnic, religious or nationality grounds. The penalties range from a prison term of up to 18 months and a fine of 6,000 euros (R $ 37,400) for those who incite or commit acts of discrimination and up to four years for acts of violence.
The text also creates pro-tolerance education mechanisms and institutes statistical surveys on violence and discrimination that include LGBTI groups. There are only nine pages, but in recent weeks they have occupied the center of political and cultural debate in Italy.
The bill has been heavily criticized by center-right parties and the Catholic Church, which have historically opposed some aspects of the proposal. The goal is three stretches, in particular.
Article 1, to include the term “gender identity” among the definitions of persons who would be protected by law. According to the text, the term designates “the perceived and manifested identification of oneself in relation to gender, even if it does not correspond to sex, regardless of having followed the path of transition”.
Article 4, understood as an imprecise guarantee of freedom of expression, of what may or may not be punished. And the seventh, which provides for the creation of the National Day against Homophobia, Lesbophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, on May 17, with activities that promote the “culture of respect and inclusion” and the fight against discrimination and violence, including at school.
Although the subject has always been in the news and cultural events in recent months, the atmosphere definitely warmed up on June 22, when the newspaper Corriere della Sera published a formal request from the Vatican, through diplomatic channels, that ‘there is a review of extracts from the bill. According to specialists, this is something new in relations between Italy and the Holy See.
According to the document, the project leaves gaps to reduce the freedom of the Church, in terms of “organization” and “manifestation of thought through speech.” Translate: it is feared that priests will be punished if they demonstrate against same-sex marriage, for example, and that Catholic schools will be obliged to include awareness days against discrimination in the calendar.
The Italian government has responded incisively. “I don’t want to get into the debate, but Italy is a secular state. Parliament is free to discuss,” said Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a practicing Catholic.
Right-wing politicians took the opportunity to raise their voice. “Let us accept the invitation of the Holy See to write a text that increases the penalties for those who discriminate against two young people who love each other. But let’s get rid of the ideology, the involvement of children and the attack on freedom of expression, ”said Senator Matteo Salvini (League).
The main Italian LGBTI movements are against the changes, saying the debate has already taken place in the House. In addition, they fear that the bill will never end with a vote, since, if amended, it would have to return to the House, with the risk of not being dealt with until the end of the current Parliament, until the end of the current legislature. in 2023.
“Whenever there has been an attempt to pass such a law, the clash has always been linked to freedom of opinion. And one of the most important actors in this regard is the Catholic Church, lest the law means a gag, ”says Gabriele Piazzoni, secretary general of Arcigay, Italy’s main LGBTI association. “But that has nothing to do with it. The law, as written, intervenes only in explicit cases of violence or discrimination. A priest will always be free to say that, for him, the family is only that of the marriage between a man and a woman. “
Another flammable element to the debate last week. Senator Matteo Renzi (Italy Viva), center, surprised by announcing that he was working with the center-right for changes in the law, the same that his party helped pass in the House. Behind the scenes, it is said that the proposal serves as a bargaining chip for other legislative issues, such as the election to the presidency of the Republic, scheduled for 2022. The choice of the head of state – currently Sergio Mattarella – is made. by Parliament.
Created in 2019, Renzi’s party is small, but it holds 17 votes in the Senate, enough to define the future of the Zan Law – it played as it helped topple the government of former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in January. To pass in plenary, the project must be approved by an absolute majority, with 161 votes.
For Rupalti, of the Lenford Network, besides the pressure from Catholic groups, another peculiarity explains the fact that the country does not yet have an anti-homophobia law – the historic crisis affecting Italian politics.
“There is a weakness in politics, in which the majorities that support governments in recent years rely on very small numbers. Few votes can determine whether something is approved or not. And so, even small forces like Italy Viva, they determined the choices of Parliament. “
The performance of Renzi, former prime minister (2014-2016), ended up further disrupting the debate on the Zan law. From Milan, businesswoman Chiara Ferragni, considered one of the country’s most influential women, called the politician “disgusting” to her 24 million Instagram followers, fueling a widespread feud between politicians and celebrities over social networks. “Italy is the most transphobic country in Europe. And Itália Viva, along with Salvini, thinks they can play with that,” Ferragni wrote.
According to the Piepoli institute, at the end of May, 75% of Italians were in favor of the measures of the Zan law – 20% against; 5%, undecided / didn’t know. A new poll last week, however, found a 10 percentage point loss among supporters of the law, especially among center-right voters.
The fact is that in Italy 40% of LGBTI people say they suffer from discrimination in their daily life and 8% have already experienced hate violence, according to 2020 data from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) . According to an Arcigay investigation published in May, based solely on cases reported by Italian newspapers, there were 120 episodes of aggression caused by homotransphobia in 12 months, one every three days.
“Passing the Zan law would give Italy the ability to recognize gender, homophobic and transphobic prejudices as the causes of hate crime. And it would send a powerful message to abusers that Italian society will not tolerate such prejudices. crimes, “said Katrin Hugendubel, director Ilga-Europa, International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association.
In addition, he says, the law also helps prevent police officers from ignoring the prejudicial motivation behind hate crimes, which ultimately results in higher sentences for perpetrators.
Given the intensity of the debate, analysts are reluctant to predict the outcome of the vote. However, it is expected that the discussion will advance at least until Thursday (15), then the phase of presentation of the amendments will be opened and then the vote will begin, depending on the requests that can be made by the senators, can happen secretly, facilitating betrayals on all sides.
“One thing is certain, from defeat to defeat, we are winning the war. Italy is a country that has changed a lot, the new generations do not even understand why there is this resistance to passing such a law. t pass now, it would be the umpteenth slap in the face for a large part of this country, “Piazzoni explains.