Women in jeans 'can't be raped'

Friday 12 February 1999 00:02 GMT

ITALIAN POLITICIANS and lawyers reacted angrily yesterday against an appeal court verdict that declared a woman could not have been raped because she was wearing jeans.

Italy's highest appeals court on Wednesday overturned a rape conviction against a 45-year-old driving instructor, saying there was not enough evidence that he raped an 18-year-old student.

In its ruling, the court said: "It is common knowledge... that jeans cannot even be partly removed without the effective help of the person wearing them... and it is impossible if the victim is struggling with all her might."

The man, who had denied rape charges, had been handed a two-year, 10- month sentence. His lawyers insisted the woman had consented to have sex with him and that there had been no evidence of violence.

Protests came from judges, lawyers and politicians across the political spectrum.

"The court's sentence contrasts with the principles of civil justice and is a worrying signal. It is a backwards-looking ruling which strikes at... the civil conscience of women and of the whole country," said Walter Veltroni, head of the Democrats of the Left party, the largest in the centre-left government.

Simonetta Sotgiu, a judge, said the ruling set justice back 30 years. She referred to a Sixties case in Sardinia in which a judge ruled a rape victim, who had been wearing jeans, had agreed to sex because "as is known, jeans are not easily removed". "Jeans again, like 30 years ago... Even then it was crazy," she said.

Six female members of parliament demonstrated in front of the lower house of parliament building yesterday, wearing jeans and holding signs that read: "Jeans: the alibi for rape".

"This sentence is unacceptable... It is a dangerous signal for all women in Italy and we will wear jeans until it is overturned," said Alessandra Mussolini, a deputy for the far-right National Alliance party.

Explaining the reasons behind its ruling, the court also said there was not enough evidence of rape because the woman had driven home after the incident and had waited several hours before telling her parents. Former Italian Justice Minister Filippo Mancuso defended the ruling: "The court did not say that in principle, being dressed in jeans means... there can be no violence. It ruled that [the first judge] should have weighed up the circumstances properly." (Reuters)

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