Italy’s Delegation Highlights Progressive Programmes in Countering Criticism of Negative Attitudes towards Women by Anti-discrimination Committee

July 27, 2011 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Strongly criticized today for harbouring negative stereotypes of women and discriminatory attitudes toward immigrants and minorities, Italian officials countered by describing their country’s recent enactment of robust and progressive programmes on both fronts, as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women took up Italy’s sixth periodic report. 

Women in Italy were more integrated into society than ever before, said Diego Brasioli, head of the State delegation, as he presented the report.  “They have a great range of life choices,” he added, citing concrete programmes — including child-care services, economic support for those working from home and tax breaks — now in place to support women in the labour market.  An important new bill aimed to ensure that women had equal access to elected and public positions, he told the 23-member expert panel.  Numerous programmes were also in place to support vulnerable women at all levels of Italian society. 

Among specific progress achieved since its last periodic review, Italy had adopted its first National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, by which it monitored relevant sectors, he said.  The country had also adopted the National Plan on Violence against Women and Stalking, in addition to establishing a Government unit and working group on stalking and sexual violence.  Despite the current global financial crisis, Italy had also managed to preserve its extensive annual budget for the protection of human-trafficking victims, he said, adding that the elaboration of a new national plan on trafficking was slated for completion by November 2011.  But despite those success stories, complete equality had yet to be achieved, he said.  Women, who now made up nearly half of the national workforce, still earned about 5 per cent less than men, and many of them remained overstretched by the need to reconcile work and family-care obligations. 

Following Mr. Brasioli’s presentation, Committee experts commended the 21-member delegation — which was joined via video conference by colleagues in Rome — on their country’s progress in protecting some aspects of women’s rights, but all agreed that more remained to be done.  Italy ranked seventy-fourth in a well-known world gender report, one expert said, while another noted that the country was noteworthy for its gender imbalance in terms of elected office.  Yet a third Committee member stressed that Italy had no coherent policy for reconciling the responsibilities of parenthood and employment, describing women’s widespread maternity-related resignation as a grave violation of the Convention. 

Several experts also pointed to persistent negative stereotyping of women in advertising and media, with one recalling that the Committee, in reviewing Italy’s previous reports, had called for measures — including legislative steps — to combat stereotypical portrayals.  She asked whether that recommendation had been implemented, while several of her colleagues asked whether remedial programmes functioned in a comprehensive way to cover sectors as diverse as education and mass media. 

In response, one delegate described recent initiatives implemented with a view to promoting positive images of women.  The Government was implementing one such programme in collaboration with the Institute of Self-Discipline, an umbrella organization working with private marketing and communications companies across Italy, to withdraw sexist or distorted images of women from advertising.  Another initiative required the State television station to show “modern” images of women, while a third consisted of a voluntary self-regulation programme for commercial television. 

Throughout the day, many experts raised concerns about discrimination against immigrant women, who accounted for nearly half of the 50,000 immigrants who had arrived in Italy since January 2011 alone.  Meanwhile, a 2009 law had made illegal immigration a criminal offence, she said, urging Italy to review that legislation to ensure that trafficking victims did not fall into the category of irregular or illegal migrants. 

With regard to pervasive negative attitudes towards Italy’s Roma population, which continued unabated in Italy, according to the experts, one Committee member pointed out that some 20,000 Roma children under the age of 12 were not fulfilling their educational obligations.  Such troubling conditions resulted from a deep distrust of a Government perceived by Roma communities as “hostile”, she said.  Yet another expert referred to a “state of emergency” declared in 2008 to deal with nomadic settlements, which remained in place today.  The Committee member urged the Government to repeal the state of emergency, saying that would signal its willingness to engage positively with the Roma population. 

A delegate responded by emphasizing the critical importance of forging close links between efforts to sensitize the population to the plight of marginalized communities and social-inclusion programmes.  Many community programmes paid special attention to the Roma, particularly in the areas of education and housing, he said, citing a 2008 project focused on creating social-inclusion tools for public administrators.  Italy had been the first country to carry out a Council of Europe campaign to combat prejudice, he said, adding that other programmes were being developed, including a strategy for the inclusion of Roma women in the labour market.

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