An Italian television show has broadcast footage of a male backing dancer groping a female pop star as a “prank”, sparking outrage.
In an unsettling video of the incident, former Eurovision contestant Emma Marrone can be seen repeatedly telling the man to stop touching her, as he gropes her multiple times during rehearsals for a TV talent show.
After the clip was broadcast on Monday night, campaigners launched a petition to introduce new guidelines for the media on dealing with sexual violence, which has now been signed more than 10,000 times.
“In a country like Italy, affected by high levels of femicide and violence against women, the mass media is contributing to a dangerous culture,” women’s rights activist Cristiana De Lia told The Local.
Producers persisted with the “prank” despite the fact Ms Marrone was visibly uncomfortable with the man’s behaviour, attempting to shrug him off as he pressed up against her, kissing and touching her hair, legs, buttocks and breasts.
“No. A bit less,” the 32-year-old can be heard firmly telling the man, as she pushes him away.
“I don’t want to be a prude,” the singer then says to one of the technical assistants. “But when he touches me so much, I can’t sing. This isn’t dancing!”
Only after Ms Marrone pushed the man away and chased him off set, shouting at him, did producers claim his behaviour was a “joke”.
The clip was broadcast as part of the Amici di Maria De Filippi talent show, to laughter and applause from the studio audience, presenters and guests, including Ms Marrone – but the pop star later admitted on another TV programme that “in that moment, I felt very strong emotions”.
While most media organisations minimised the incident – suggesting the singer overreacted – or described the show as hilarious, women’s rights organisation Non Una Di Meno tweeted: “Sexual violence is never something to laugh at!”
Many comments on the TV show’s Facebook page, which shared the clip, echoed this sentiment, calling out the “prank” as “disgusting”.
“Harassment is never hot, it’s harassment,” one woman wrote, in Italian. “The message in this is terrible. The laughter of the audience and guests is pathetic. Too bad that even the woman directly concerned has not remained aware of the seriousness of what she experienced.”
The woman, whose comment had been liked dozens of times, said she feared the programme normalised harassment. “From today it will be enough to say: ‘I was kidding!’”
In addition to petitioning for a new code of ethics for the media, campaigners want the producers of the programme to resign.
“As well as affecting the singer, a ‘joke’ like this affects all victims of violence and abuse, making them believe that abuse is normal – so normal, in fact, that we should laugh about it,” Ms Lia told The Local, adding that it was particularly damaging because the show’s audience is made up largely of young people.
Around one in three Italian women suffer from violence at some point in their life, according to recent statistics.
In March, a man was reportedly acquitted of rape because the alleged victim did not scream.
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