, ROME, Feb 13 – Thousands of Italian women are to demonstrate Sunday in protest at "degrading" media coverage of the recent sex scandals surrounding Silvio Berlusconi — and attitudes to women in general.
The rally comes in the wake of weeks of lurid reporting on the women at the centre of investigations into the embattled leader — and Berlusconi\’s own controversial comments in his defence.
Sunday\’s event has been organised by sisters Francesca and Cristina Comencini, both actresses, who argue that Berlusconi himself is part of the problem.
"Berlusconi has long shown a violent contempt for women with his misogynist remarks," Francesca Comencini said.
The Italian leader is fighting off allegations that he paid for sex with disco dancer Ruby, real name Karima El Mahroug, when she was a minor.
While he denies ever having done so, many people have been offended by his manner of defending himself.
"I have never paid a woman," Berlusconi said in one interview last year.
"I have never seen the satisfaction that there could be in it without the pleasure of conquest."
And in a speech in November he remarked: "It\’s better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay."
A video on Youtube calls on women to join Sunday\’s demonstrations as well as the flash-mobs and non-stop lectures that will be held on Sunday in Milan, Rome and hundreds of towns across the country.
Men who support the cause are also welcome.
A manifesto, "If not now, when?," denounces "the indecent, repetitive representation of women as a naked object of sexual exchange" in newspapers, advertising and on television.
More than 50,000 women have signed it in just one week.
And although those involved have been asked not to politicise the demonstration, several members of parliament who recently broke away from Berlusconi\’s centre-right ruling party have said they will be attending.
"This isn\’t a mobilization against call-girls," Elisa Davoglio, a 35-year old poet told AFP — a movement for the defence of prostitutes\’ rights is due to attend protest.
"Neither right-wing governments, nor left-wing ones have ever done anything," Christina Comencini said, criticising "discrimination in the job market due to a lack of day-nurseries, family helpers and part-time jobs."
In Italy, where the birth rate is one of the lowest in Europe at 1.4 child per family, only one woman in two works — compared to 59 percent in the European Union — despite them being, on average, better educated than men.