Italy’s highest court rules that a woman’s appearance is irrelevant in rape cases

Rome’s Supreme Court of Cassation overruled an appeals court decision that a woman could not be the victim of a rape because she was “too masculine” and “unattractive.” 

Victoria Wystepek
Victoria Wystepek NewsMavens, Europe
Italy’s highest court rules that a woman’s appearance is irrelevant in rape cases - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

In 2017, a three-person panel in an Italian appeals court acquitted two men convicted of raping a woman claiming that she was not feminine enough to be raped. Italy's highest court has now overruled that decision, stating that a woman’s physical appearance is “wholly irrelevant” and a “non-decisive” element in assessing a rape charge. 

Even though doctors confirmed that the woman’s injuries were consistent with rape and that she was found with a date rape drug in her system, the appeals court did not find her story completely convincing. They reasoned that she may have staged the events because one of her alleged rapists “stored her number in his phone under the nickname ‘Viking,’ an allusion to an anything but a feminine figure…” 

The high court annulled the ruling and ordered a new appeals trial, which reversed the two men’s acquittals. So far, the ruling has been widely praised.

Luisa Rizzitelli of the feminist group Rebel Network said, “The Supreme Court has given justice not only to the women, but to all Italian women. Rape is a horrible crime that does not depend on the appearance but on the contempt and cruelty of those who commit it.” 

Details from the story:

  • The alleged rape happened in 2015 when a Peruvian woman, who has asked to remain anonymous, went to a bar in Italy with a group of people. 
  • The woman claims that she was drugged and raped by one man, while the other stood guard. 
  • After the decision of the appeals court to acquit the two men accused of raping the woman, a mob of protesters surrounded the Ancona court. They carried signs such as, “Stop justifying male violence on women.” 
  • In 2018, 8.2 million Italian women said that they have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives, many of the instances occurring in public.
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