ROME – Violence against women in Italy has been thrust into the spotlight with a raft of headline-grabbing murders of women by their lovers — a trend the U.N. has flagged as a particular problem in a country where gender stereotypes are "deeply rooted" and where a third of all women face physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes.
On Tuesday, Italy's lower chamber of parliament ratified a European anti-domestic violence convention on the same day that the latest victim was buried: a 15-year-old girl beaten, stabbed 20 times and burned alive, allegedly by her boyfriend.
The Council of Europe treaty on preventing and combatting violence against women now goes to the Italian Senate, where its passage is expected. The 2011 treaty creates a legal framework to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women.
The unanimous vote occurred in Rome. In the southern "toe" of boot-shaped Italy, funeral services were held Tuesday for Fabiana Luzzi, who died Friday in the southern town of Corigliano Calabro. Italian news reports cited prosecutor Maria Vallefuoco as saying her boyfriend, identified only as Davide because he is a minor, was in custody and had confessed.
Details of the crime turned even more gruesome after news reports citing the coroner and prosecutors said Luzzi bled for two hours and was very much alive before her boyfriend returned with a tank of gas. She apparently tried unsuccessfully to fight him off when he doused her with fuel and set her afire.
The boyfriend's lawyer, Giovanni Zagarese, has said he would seek a psychiatric evaluation if the judge doesn't order one, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
"I feel the need to ask forgiveness for all the women killed by the hands of those who abuse the word 'love,'" Italy's equal opportunities minister, Josefa Idem, said as she attended Luzzi's funeral.
Several lawmakers cited Luzzi's violent death in remarks before the treaty vote and the chamber president, Laura Boldrini, hailed the treaty as an important step forward for Italy. Boldrini said Italy also needed a separate law to finance specific intervention measures.
Italy has several laws that should prevent such crimes and ensure that perpetrators are prosecuted.
But last year, the U.N. special rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, said the implementation of Italy's laws are often stymied by their fragmented nature, inadequate sanctions, lack of redress for victims and lengthy trials that often end with cases being thrown out due to the statute of limitations.
"These factors contribute to the silencing and invisibility surrounding violence against women, its causes and consequences," she wrote in her report.
Since the 1990s, as homicides by men against men fell in Italy, the number of women murdered by men has increased: In 2010, the figure stood at 127, the U.N. report said. Other studies cite higher figures, and note that many cases of domestic violence go unreported to begin with.
Manjoo said 78 percent of all violence against women in Italy is domestic in nature, and that 31.9 percent of Italian women face physical or sexual violence during their lifetimes. The U.N. envoy noted that gender stereotypes are "deeply rooted" in Italy, where women are underrepresented in public and private senior management positions.
"Women carry a heavy burden in terms of household care, while the contribution of men thereto is amongst the lowest in the world," Manjoo said.
She cited studies that found that 53 percent of women appearing on television in Italy didn't speak, while 46 percent of them "were associated with issues such as sex, fashion and beauty, and only 2 percent issues of social commitment and professionalism."
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