By Valeria Marchetti
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
One of Silvio Berlusconi's "escorts" has publicly encouraged women to view their beauty as a marketable asset. Some of the prime minister's political opponents say his tenure has degraded the atmosphere for women in the work force.
In February the women's rights group "Se non ora quando?" ("If not now, when?") staged protests in 60 Italian towns and cities, with smaller support demonstrations scattered across Europe and one in Tokyo. "Italy is not a brothel" was a popular sign in the Rome protest and many demonstrators said Berlusconi's sex scandals were degrading to Italian women.
Berlusconi pushed back in a televised press conference, denying that he ever attended sex parties or consorted with prostitutes, calling the claims politically motivated.
Vincenzo Maruccio, another member of the IDV, also addressed the issue. "A country that allows escorts to overtake skilled women who studied and get work experiences is an immoral country," he said at the September gathering.
Maruccio, a councilor of Lazio, a region that includes Rome, proposed creating job-evaluation criteria based only on skills and job experience and not connections. He emphasized that Berlusconi's sex-scandal-plagued leadership has done a disservice to women's employment opportunities.
Beatrice Lorenzin is the member of parliament responsible for equal opportunity for Berlusconi's PDL. In a recent phone interview, she said the women's rights movement has suffered a historic reversal.
"Sexual freedom has changed," she said. "In 1968 it represented freedom of choice. But today's women turn their body into a power tool."
She deflected any ideas that her party leader has encouraged women to use their sexuality to gain financial power. She argued that during the 20 years that leftists dominated the country's politics they created a discouraging atmosphere. Now, she said, they don't see any other way to move ahead aside from exploiting personal connections and their own sexuality.
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Valeria Marchetti is an Italian journalist with a background in broadcasting. She is based in Rome.
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