Women in Italy are tolerating an unacceptable level of domestic violence which can often lead to the tragedy of femicide; women are nearly always murdered by their partners or former partners.  In an attempt to halt the rising instance of assaults against women by their partners the recent ruling coalition government (now defunct) responded by drafting the Codice Rosso or code red law in the hope of stemming the tide of domestic violence.  The Senate overwhelmingly voted for the bill to be passed into law.  The new law enshrines tougher penalties in the shape of longer prison sentences.  The new law also categorises acid attacks as a specifically designated crime with sentencing guidelines related to it, rather than being caught in the general term of grievous bodily harm.   Revenge porn is also recognised.

The new law provides for a significant uplift of the sentences that perpetrators of domestic violence against women can now expect to receive.  Prison sentences of up to seven years can now be delivered.  Stalking now carries a maximum sentence of six and half years and those individuals who participate is group attacks will now face a maximum sentence of 14 years.  In a major change in the case of child rape, the State will now be able to bring charges against the suspect rather than the victim having to do so.  Furthermore, in future, cases of domestic violence will have the investigation fast-tracked and there will be a court hearing within three days. 

However, the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) believes that the new law does not go far enough and that the original draft bill needed improvement, complaining that mainly focusing on increased prison sentences was insufficient and other measures are necessary to combat what was described as is "a structural phenomenon which shows no sign of diminishing, which has its roots in a deep and persistent disparity of power between men and women and in the patriarchal organisation of society."  The Democratic Party leaders also drew attention to the fact that no additional funding has been earmarked for the fight against domestic violence.

Women's groups have also pointed out that the speed of court action may mean that a traumatised woman who has reported a violent attack will then have to repeat the details of the whole incident again before the court just a few days later, which may be upsetting.  A spokeswoman suggested that the initial report prepared by the police should be adequate without the need for repetition by the victim.

Since the bill has been enacted prosecutors across Italy are reporting a sharp rise in victims reporting attacks in Milan 30-40 reports per day are being received; in Naples there are approximately 30 per day with Rome receiving 25 per day.  It has been pointed out that this is not a spike in attacks but a spike in reporting attacks, the huge uplift in reports threatens to swamp the legal system.  This clearly indicates that not only is domestic violence against women endemic in Italy but that women are no longer prepared to tolerate the situation now that they have a legal remedy.

Should you wish to know more about how you can use the law to protect against domestic violence in Italy  please click here

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