It’s tough to say what finally gets women organizing. Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been controversial since he stepped into politics, yet he is the second longest serving prime minister of that country, second to Benito Mussolini.
Today, Berlusconi was indicted and will stand trial on abuse of power charges and paying for sex with an underage girl. The case is expected to start in Milan on April 6.
Last Sunday, February 13th, the women of Italy took to the streets with rallies in 200 cities including Milan, Naples and Venice calling for Berlusconi’s resignation following a charge that he paid an underage prostitute to have sex with him (he claims he has never paid for sex). It’s not the first time the Prime Minister has been entangled in a sex scandal. In May of last year, his wife, Veronica Lario, who was his mistress first, bore three children, then married him in 1990, wrote an open letter to her husband demanding an apology for his flirtations with other women in public.
The most recent scandal has been helped along by Francesca and Cristina Comencini, two sisters who organized a movement calling for Berlusconi’s ouster according to the Hurryiat Daily News, with more than 50,000 women signing the group’s manifesto in just one week. While some politicized the protests, suggesting the women “belong to the leftist anti-Berlusconi movement,” Cristina Comencini had no love lost for either political party, “Neither right-wing governments, nor left-wing ones have ever done anything [for women].” Which appears to be true.
According to the News, “In Italy, where the birth rate is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.4 children per family, only one woman in two works, compared to 59 percent in the European Union, despite women being, on average, better educated than men.”
The World Economic Forum places Italy at #74 in their Global Gender Gap Report 2010 behind China, Malawi Ghana, Slovakia and Vietnam just to name a few.
Still, Berlusconi has escaped worse charges including bribery, corruption, tax evasion, and embezzlement. If convicted Berlusconi could serve 15 years.
Will women’s solidarity finally bring the Prime Minister down when the men could not? My grandmother was Italian. My bet is on the women. Stay tuned.