Italian Senate approves law banning sexist and discriminatory advertising | Italy

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The Italian Senate has approved a law banning street advertising deemed sexist or discriminatory amid the fury of far-right politicians and anti-abortion groups.

The law, which is part of a transport and infrastructure decree, bans street advertising and all modes of transport that degrade women and perpetuate gender stereotypes as well as those considered harmful to civil and political rights. or containing messages that discriminate against homosexuals, ethnic and religious groups or people with disabilities.

In addition, the measure prohibits advertisements that discriminate against people on the basis of their gender identity, an element described by Lucio Malan, senator of the far-right Brothers of Italy, as “an ideological norm aimed at limiting the freedom of expression “. Opponents are all the more furious since it was the reference to gender identity that indeed led the Senate, or upper house of Parliament, to reject last week a bill aimed at combating homophobia. . “This is a measure that was introduced in a treacherous fashion,” said Malan.

Andrea Bertoli, another senator from the Brothers of Italy, said the “shameful” anti-homophobia law had been “reproduced in a transport decree”.

The measure has also sparked a concert of complaints from anti-abortion groups because, by extension, it will prevent them from lining the streets with billboards offensive to women who have abortions. The ProVita association regularly deploys aggressive anti-abortion campaigns across the country, placing huge posters on the walls depicting fetuses in the womb or those who equated the abortion pill with consuming poison.

“The law does not specifically refer to abortion, but it broadens the measure in a very smart way, which means that steps will be taken to block this type of advertising,” said Luisa Rizzitelli, a women’s rights activist. .

Abortion has been legal in Italy since 1978, so the law will ban advertisements that violate this right and attack women for having an abortion, Rizzitelli added.

Antonio Brandi, the president of ProVita, also targeted the gender identity element of the law. He said: “Will it still be possible to say in an advertisement that baby boys are men and baby girls are women?” That a baby is born to a mother and a father? “

Rizzitelli said the measure was “a big step forward” in banning sexist advertising “which is everywhere in Italy”.

“The big brands have become much more attentive, but in small towns, there are still advertisements that undermine the dignity of women,” she added.

There was an uproar in January over a billboard on the street in Lizzanello, a town in Puglia, depicting a woman dressed as a French maid offering “free for one month” cleaning services. Food and drink ads often featured women wearing only underwear, while in 2017 jewelry chain Pandora was forced to remove a series of pre-Christmas ads asking if women would prefer “one.” iron, pajamas, apron or bracelet ”as a gift. .

“All women’s associations have been trying for years to stop this,” said Rizzitelli. “This law could also contribute to a cultural change. “

The amendment to the transport and infrastructure decree was presented by Alessia Rotta, a member of the center-left Democratic Party, and Raffaella Paita of the centrist Italia Viva party. “The amendment is the result of a lot of hard work that allows us to give social value to these issues,” she said.

Nadia Rossi, a politician from the Democratic Party, said: “This is a first step towards definitively stopping the hate messages conveyed by advertising. It is by no means a question of limiting communication, but of realizing to what extent advertising can influence the thinking of young people, and affect minorities and the most vulnerable.

The divisive anti-homophobia law was blocked by the Senate after months of protests from far-right and Catholic groups, arguing that it would have suppressed free speech and promoted “homosexual propaganda” in schools.

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