Italy tries to reduce violence against women

ROME (AP) - Italy's lower chamber of parliament ratified a European anti-domestic violence treaty on Tuesday as the country buried its latest female murder victim: a 15-year-old girl stabbed 20 times and burned alive, allegedly by her boyfriend.

The issue of Italy's rising tide of violence against women has been in the spotlight with a raft of headline-grabbing murders of women, often by their current or past lovers. The United Nations (UN) special investigator on violence against women reported last year that since the 1990s, as homicides committed by men against men fell in Italy, the number of women murdered by men has increased: In 2010, the figure stood at 127, the UN report said.

On Tuesday, Italy's lower Chamber of Deputies ratified the Council of Europe's convention on preventing and combating violence against women, sending the bill to the Senate where passage is expected. The 2011 treaty creates a legal framework to prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women. So far, four Council of Europe members have ratified it.

The unanimous vote occurred at the same time as the funeral for Fabiana Luzzi, who was beaten, stabbed 20 times and burned alive Friday in the southern town of Corigliano Calabro, in Italy's poor region of Calabria. Italian news reports have said her boyfriend, identified only as Davide because he is a minor, was in custody and had confessed.

Details of the crime turned even more gruesome after news reports citing the coroner and prosecutors said Luzzi bled for two hours and was very much alive before her boyfriend returned with a tank of gas. She apparently tried unsuccessfully to fight him off when he doused her with the fuel and then set her afire.

The boyfriend's lawyer, Mr Giovanni Zagarese, has said he would seek a psychiatric evaluation if the judge doesn't order one, Corriere della Sera reported.

Several lawmakers cited Luzzi's violent death in remarks before the treaty vote, and the chamber president, Ms Laura Boldrini, hailed the treaty as an important step forward for Italy. What was necessary now, Ms Boldrini said, was a separate law to finance specific intervention measures.

Italy has several laws on the books already that should prevent such crimes and ensure its perpetrators are prosecuted.

But last year, the UN special rapporteur on violence against women, Ms Rashida Manjoo, said implementation of Italy's laws is often stymied by their fragmented nature, inadequate sanctions, lack of redress for victims and lengthy trials that often end with cases being thrown out because of the statute of limitations.

"These factors contribute to the silencing and invisibility surrounding violence against women, its causes and consequences," she wrote in her final report.

Ms Manjoo said 78 per cent of all violence committed against women in Italy is domestic in nature. Luzzi's friends were quoted by Italian news reports as saying her boyfriend physically abused her, but that she loved him.

In describing the cultural context in which such violence occurs, Ms Manjoo noted that gender stereotypes are "deeply rooted" in Italy, with women underrepresented in public and private senior management positions.

"Women carry a heavy burden in terms of household care, while the contribution of men thereto is amongst the lowest in the world," Ms Manjoo said. She cited studies that found that 53 per cent of women appearing on television didn't speak, while 46 per cent "were associated with issues such as sex, fashion and beauty, and only 2 per cent issues of social commitment and professionalism".