Sexual Violence in Italy Used to Support Racist Immigration Policies

by Cara on February 21, 2009

in assholes, bigotry, Europe, immigration, International, politics, race and racism, rape and sexual assault, violence against women and girls

Last month, I wrote a post about how Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made statements which heavily implied a belief that women are raped not because certain men have a desire for control over women, or feel that they deserve permanent access to women’s bodies, but because women are so good looking.  Even worse than that, he did so in order to justify his attempts to enforce police state measures as some sort of supposed response to recent incidences of sexual violence.

Now, via Angry Black Woman, we get the news that Berlusconi has taken the police state thing one step further — by blaming sexual violence on immigrants and authorizing what are essentially vigilante squads to help combat the “problem.”

Italy’s government has rushed through a decree to crack down on sexual violence and illegal immigration after a spate of rapes blamed on foreigners.

The decree sets a mandatory life sentence for the rape of minors or attacks where the victim is killed.

It also establishes rules for citizen street patrols to be conducted by unarmed and unpaid volunteers.

[. . .]

Critics say the measures could effectively legitimise vigilantism and xenophobia. The Vatican has warned against anything that turns innocent foreigners into convenient scapegoats.

Yup, you know there’s something seriously fucked up going on when I agree with the Vatican.

As I said in my last post on the subject of the recent high profile rapes in Italy, putting the focus of rape prevention measures on these stranger rapes takes any and all focus off of the rapes committed by someone the victim knows, which are the majority in virtually any country not living in a time of war/occupation.  That’s of course not to say that if women are being pulled off the street and raped, it’s not a problem.  Yes, that’s a huge problem!  But acting like these instances are the only ones to get worked up over reifies current misconceptions about what “counts” as rape, and how big of a problem it is.  It pushes certain victims and certain perpetrators to the sidelines.  And it solidifies the idea in the public consciousness that rape was not a problem before these high profile cases occurred.

And by focusing efforts so narrowly on those rapes committed by immigrants, it gives the idea that not only does it take a certain kind of man to commit rape, but you can identify that kind of man quite easily.  It presents as truth the notion that you can identify him not even by everyday public actions (you know, the myth of the super shady looking rapist as the only kind out there), but by appearance, and ethnicity.  And guess what?  That’s racist!  And xenophobic!

And when you use racist and xenophobic rhetoric, and reinforce the idea that immigrants and only immigrants are at risk for committing violence (against women, no less), that’s really dangerous:

Many recent rapes have been blamed on foreigners, especially Romanians. Violent attacks on immigrants have since been reported.

Police say a mob of around 20 masked men beat up four Romanians outside a kebab restaurant in Rome on Sunday in an apparent vigilante attack.

And see, the idea about who is and isn’t violent?  It gets automatically disproved in a really disgusting way.  Not that anyone will notice that.

Angry Black Woman says it quite well:

No one can control a lynch mob. It is impossible to impose “rules” on violent vigilantes. Berlusconi must be smoking the good stuff if he honestly thinks he can regulate hate. It just doesn’t work that way.

My prediction: there will be deaths as a result of this. There will be more rapes of Italians, and they will go unpunished because now all an Italian rapist has to do is gibber something in Romanian to confuse the victim and the system will run off to scapegoat some poor schmuck who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and have the wrong accent. Rapes of immigrants will also increase and go unpunished, because that’s what happens when you unleash a mob on an oppressed population; some of these “citizen vigilantes” will decide on an eye for an eye.

Sadly, I think she’s quite right.  And it makes me really, really sick.  Helping women is clearly not the point here.  And even if it was, it’s sure as hell not going to be the result.

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{ 3 comments }

1 Jim Jay February 21, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Great post

2 Anna February 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Oh, Christ. Don’t even have words for this one.

3 Renee February 21, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I never thought I’d say this but I agree with the vatican as well. You have no idea how it hurt me to write that sentence.
This is not about protecting women. There have so many acts of violence and hatred that have been presented to the world as for the benefit of women and quite obviously they have created situations where women have become even more vulnerable or have witnesses a marked decline in their standard of living. One need look no further than Iraq to see evidence of this. This line of thinking is nothing but a license to attack immigrants. At what point will one truly be viewed as Italian. Obviously it is meant to be understood that certain people will always be considered secondary beings.

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