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President Meloni addresses event ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

[The following video is available in Italian only]

Good afternoon everyone. 

I wish to thank the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Lorenzo Fontana, for organising this initiative ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I am of course very sorry that I am unable to attend in person, but I nevertheless wanted to send a contribution from the Government I represent.

My greetings and thanks go to the colleagues who will address you today, to the speakers and to all members of parliament in attendance.

On 17 December 1999, the United Nations General Assembly launched this International Day and chose to celebrate it on 25 November: the anniversary of the murder of Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, the three Mirabal sisters who were tortured and killed by Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina’s regime in 1960.

United Nations figures speak for themselves: one in three women suffer physical or psychological abuse and violence in their lifetime. In many areas of the world, including in situations of armed conflict and emergency, women, young women and girls continue to be victims of discrimination, violence, abuse and exploitation. 

Every day, we see tragic conflicts where women and girls are exposed, often on the front line, to increasing brutality and to acts of revenge by the different sides. The utter atrocity of rape in war zones has now also returned here in Europe with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

This Government will not stand by in indifference on this issue; this will be the focus of a meeting on Thursday 24 November, organised by the Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which will be attended by United Nations authorities and representatives of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. 

Rape during war is a real and terrible weapon that reduces women to territory to be possessed, that creates irremediable wounds - lingering rancour that often lasts a lifetime. The entire international community must urgently make a commitment on this: Italy takes part in numerous United Nations programmes that aim to protect the rights of women and girls and ensure justice for victims of abuse and violence. Italy has always been at the forefront in the fight against genital mutilation and child and forced marriage. It is equally as crucial to reflect, not only at international level but also here in Italy, on the relationship between violence and ideological adherence, especially with reference to female immigrants.

Physical cruelty, restricting what women can wear, forbidding them from going to school, forcing them into unwanted marriages, abuse and murder are justified by the perpetrators, as they are deemed to conform with the religion or culture of the country of origin. This is unacceptable, as no culture can be defined as such if it involves violence against women: we must not be afraid to strongly reiterate this concept. Equally, we must support the desire for freedom and the battles being fought with bravery and determination by women in a number of nations, from Afghanistan to Iran, to claim their role in society.

Unfortunately, the situation in Italy is also still of concern, demanding that institutions pay the utmost attention. Femicide is the ultimate act of violence against women; the extreme form of the most brutal and most evident violence – physical violence, which can come in many different forms: from threats to harassment, from abuse to rape. Women do not always report violence, because they feel trapped by the fact they have children, because they are not financially independent, because they are scared, because they delude themselves that their partner will change, because they are involved emotionally, because they believe they are weak or because they feel alone.

These last two points are where we can have a greater impact: making women aware that they are not alone, that society is there to support them, that it believes them and is able to provide real assistance. We must help women to discover that they are not weak and are able to stand up for themselves, to find the strength within to move forward, to change their lives and the lives of their children, who witness the violence and are direct victims of it themselves. Witnessing violence is an issue that must not be ignored; doing so would be unforgiveable: studies and statistics in fact show that witnessing episodes of violence in the family can have very serious consequences on children and adolescents’ growth and well-being. That is not hard to believe. It has unfortunately been found that girls and young women who witness violence tend to tolerate it as adults, while boys and young men who witness violence are more likely to become aggressive partners in later life. 

This Government is, and always will be, at the forefront in fighting violence against women and the terrible scourge of femicide. There is a lot of work to do and we intend to carry it out with a comprehensive approach, focusing our efforts on three pillars of action: prevention, protection and certainty of punishment. This Government will provide funding for anti-violence centres and refuges; we will work hard to implement Law no. 53 of 2022 regarding the gathering of statistical data about violence against women, which is still in need of implementing decrees and technical work. It is essential to have as detailed a picture as possible in order to create effective policies to prevent and combat violence, resolving any critical issues while monitoring the phenomenon and also evaluating the hidden element of the various types of violence.

We will make it easier for protocols and best practices to be adopted in the Courts, to ensure ‘code red’ legislation is enforced more and more effectively. We will work to ensure the certainty of punishment, to strengthen victim protection measures and to increase the use of electronic tagging for offenders, which is often not enforced simply due to a lack of tags. We will invest in training for those working in the field – public security forces, judicial officers, lawyers, doctors, social workers, teachers and healthcare staff – as well as in cooperation between the various professions in order to find the most appropriate solutions for individual cases and the most effective measures to protect any children involved. We will work hard through dedicated awareness-raising and information campaigns to make sure women know about the forms of assistance available to them: from anti-violence centres and refuges to the freephone number 1522. We also plan to strengthen the anti-trafficking plan for more effective action to defend and protect victims.

It is necessary to combat new forms of oppression and domination of women which are becoming increasingly common in our time. We are here to overcome injustice and to fight against all forms of violence.

I know that women can and will overcome.  I am certain that women’s courage, tenacity and willpower are great resources of ours and must be nurtured, in society and in politics. 
That is what we are here for. That is what I am here for.

Thank you and I wish you all the best with your work.

[Courtesy translation]