Berlusconi faces ‘sexist’ complaint
Rome — Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi could face legal action over alleged sexist remarks after two lawmakers said last week they planned to file a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
Anna Paola Concia of the left-wing Democratic Party and MEP Donata Gottardi said they would ask the Strasbourg-based court to rule on whether the Italian premier had breached European law for what they perceive to be sexist comments.
"We’ll file charges against Silvio Berlusconi for breaching… the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) because of his repeated statements that offend female dignity," the two Italian lawmakers said in a statement.
The ECHR states all European citizens have a right to a private life and to be free from discrimination.
Concia told AFP the complaint would be lodged with the court on Monday.
She singled out comments allegedly made by Berlusconi at a Franco-Italian summit in Rome on Tuesday but which were denied by the Italian government.
Italian media reports, based on an interpretation by France’s Canal Plus television, said that Berlusconi appeared to whisper to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, "I gave you your woman" in a reference to his wife, French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and her Italian roots.
"Carla should know that she has support in Italy," Concia added.
"These aren’t jokes. Berlusconi is not an ordinary citizen and he shouldn’t speak like one."
Berlusconi’s office denied Friday he had made any reference to Sarkozy’s wife at the summit, and said his remark was actually: "You know I studied at the Sorbonne."
The Italian prime minister sparked controversy in January after claiming it would be impossible to prevent rapes in his country as "we would need as many soldiers as there are beautiful girls in Italy, which I think we would never achieve."
His remarks came after two rapes in the Rome area prompted an increase to 30,000 in the number of soldiers helping police to patrol the streets of crime-prone Italian cities
Berlusconi backtracked in the face of the criticism, saying he meant his remarks as a "compliment" to Italian women and arguing that people should "never lose their sense of humour and levity."
Equality Minister Mara Carfagna, a former Miss Italy contestant, rejected the latest accusations against Berlusconi.
Female-friendly measures taken by the Italian government had "been more numerous than ever before," she said.
Gaffe-prone Berlusconi also became embroiled in a row with Argentina earlier this month after making a joke about the South American’s country’s 1976-1983 dictatorship.
Buenos Aires reacted furiously and summoned the Italian ambassador after hearing the remarks alluding to "death flights" in which political prisoners were drugged and dumped into the sea from planes.