Prospect of far-right female premier divides Italian women

Prospect of far-right female premier divides Italian women

ROME If Italy elects its first female premier, will its women be happy or sad?

Should opinion polls prove on the mark, Giorgia Meloni and the far-right Brothers of Italy party she co-founded less than a decade ago will triumph in the Sept. 25 election. Italy’s president might ask Meloni to form a coalition government with right-wing allies.

For many female voters, it is a question of gender and agenda.

Some fear that Meloni, who exalts motherhood might try to undermine women’s rights, such as abortion access.

Her conservative platform of “God, homeland, and family” is what matters to her supporters, not her sex.

Brothers of Italy has roots in a neo-fascist movement that hailed the legacy of Benito Mussolini, who bestowed prizes on women who had many children. The party took around 4% of votes in the last election, in 2018, but according to some pollsters it could win nearly 25% in this one.

Licia Donati, as a young Communist activist in the 1960s, fought for the legalization of divorce, which came in 1970. She also mobilized so Italian courts would recognize that wives have the same right to justice as husbands in a country where, until 1981, laws sanctioned leniency for men who murdered women to preserve “family honor.”

If Meloni does become Italy’s first female premier, it would be “a rupture (with the past) in the sense she is a woman, but it would be going backward in terms of the conservative women’s culture,” said Donati, 84, a Tuscan native who lives in Rome.

Donati stated that she could speak with the politician and say: “What war did you wage for women? Nothing.”

Meloni, 45, is the only main party leader who didn’t join Premier Mario Draghi’s pandemic national unity government in 2021. In July, populist forces, including Meloni’s campaign ally, pulled support from Draghi, and the coalition of the former European Central Bank chief collapsed. This prompted an early election.

OriaGargano, a BeFree organization in Rome that helps women who have been subject to domestic violence, was dismayed to learn that a Brother of Italy politician had pushed for cemeteries where the fetuses of aborted fetuses could be buried and posted the names of women who gave birth without their consent.

Recently, Meloni angered women by retweeting a video of a woman being raped in a street — “for the simple fact that it was an immigrant who raped her,” Gargano said.

Meloni has referred to most migrants, overwhelmingly men, who sail towards Italy’s shores in smugglers boats as “freeloaders” and don’t merit refugee status.

Meloni generally refrains from asking for women’s votes because she is a female. She has reacted to the criticisms that she would not be a victory for women if elected premier.

“It would be a challenge for anyone to say that it would not mean breaking down the glass ceiling,” she said to ANSA, an Italian news agency. She was referring to her visit to Monza to take part in a Formula 1 race.

” I am a woman so saying that you aren’t a woman if your statements are like mine makes me laugh. “

According to pollsters, Meloni attracts slightly more male than female voters.

Sen. Emma Bonino, the leader of the small Europe party which is allied with Enrico Letta, the Democratic Party chief, pushed for legalization of divorce and abortion as a young woman.

During this election campaign, Meloni has been pressed to say whether she will uphold Italy’s law legalizing abortion through the first 12 weeks of pregnancy or later if a woman’s health or life is endangered. While she insists that she will respect the law, she wants it to be implemented in a way that provides support for women who choose to have children.

“She will be smart — there won’t be any big debate, just ‘we won’t apply’ the law, Bonino stated.

Several political rivals have pointed out a shortage in doctors willing to perform abortions, especially in parts of Italy, such as the Marche region, which is governed by Meloni. To avoid the procedure, personnel working in Italy’s public healthcare system can declare themselves “conscientious objectionors” under the 1978 law.

At Meloni’s first campaign rally last month in Ancona, a city in Marche, about 1,000 wildly cheering supporters far outnumbered the couple of dozen protesters, most of them women, on a side street.

“You don’t represent me and you ooze hate,” a placard read.

Meloni has a young child and a male companion. She decries the LGBTQ “lobbies”, laughs at the idea of gender fluidity, and supports Italy’s ban against single-parent adoptions.

“Traditional” families for her are the bedrock of society.

Her conservative views are off-putting to some women, including Alice Riboli, who at 18 can vote for the first time.

“It would have been better to see a woman hold a similar role (like premier), but maybe not. Riboli, a northern Italian from Aosta, suggested that someone with more open ideas and more current ideas might be a good choice.

But Meloni’s agenda is supported by other women.

Lavinia Mercante, 25, from Rome, said she backs her “as a politician, not as a woman.” Mercante wants to see the political right come to power.

Some people are not interested in female empowerment as a campaign theme. They just want a government that is strong and can last. Three different ruling coalitions from all political parties have ruled 2018, Italy since then.

“I think I don’t care if the right or the left wins,” said Caterina Bazzani, 52, a financial consultant from Agrate Brianza in northern Italy. “I want an Italian government that lasts five years and implements its program.”

Some people think Meloni should be elected because she’s a woman. But I don’t think that way. It’s enough that she is capable. Man or woman, it’s the same to me.”


Sabrina Sergi contributed to this report.

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