Trigger Warning: The following content may be disturbing to some.
Italy has been rocked by the alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl in front of her boyfriend in a public park in the Sicilian city of Catania, the latest in a series of shocking sexual attacks in the country.
The case is reminiscent of two alleged gang rapes last summer. A group of seven men and teenagers between 15 and 18 years old are currently being tried for the alleged rape of a 19-year-old girl in Palermo in August.
Weeks later, nine young men were arrested and charged with allegedly raping two cousins, aged 10 and 12, near Naples and broadcasting the attack live on social media. They too face trial.
Last month’s alleged gang rape in Catania has become not only a symbol of violence against women in the country, but also a cause célèbre for Italy’s far-right government. The seven alleged perpetrators were all Egyptian immigrants, three of them under the age of 18, Catania police confirmed to CNN.
CNN has reached out to the suspect’s attorneys for comment. Lawyers for three of them said their clients denied involvement in the actual assault, while the others did not comment because their clients are minors.
The case was soon used as evidence that immigrants should be prevented from entering the country.
Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni came to power in September 2022 on an anti-immigration platform, but her efforts to curb irregular migration into the country have so far been unsuccessful.
The men charged in the latest Sicilian case entered Italy by boat in 2021 and 2022 as unaccompanied minors, according to Catania police. Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, one of the country’s most visible far-right figures, said in X that they should not have been allowed to stay.
Meanwhile, during a visit to Catania, Meloni expressed solidarity with the alleged rape victim and her family.
“The State will be there and the State will guarantee that justice will be done,” he stated.
The way the cases between the Italian suspects and the Egyptians are being handled is already coming under scrutiny.
The men accused of raping the 19-year-old woman in Palermo were granted fast-track trials, their lawyers told CNN, meaning they will be held behind closed doors and sealed.
Lawyers have been appointed for the Egyptian suspects who have not yet pleaded guilty, but the prosecutor in the case has already filed additional charges related to illegal immigration, Alessandro Fidone, the court-appointed lawyer representing two of the suspects, told CNN. .
Those who were now over 18, and therefore not classified as unaccompanied minors, no longer had the right to remain in the country because Egyptians do not qualify to apply for asylum in Italy.
Italy’s Interior Ministry has called for a thorough review of all centers housing unaccompanied minors to see if similar cases exist.
Migration is blamed
Italy has been fighting the problem of gender violence for a long time.
In November, both houses of parliament unanimously approved a new measure that strengthens punishments against perpetrators of gender violence and increases protection measures for women who fear for their lives.
The legislation was inspired by the case of Giulia Cecchettin, a 22-year-old woman murdered by an ex-boyfriend. She was one of the 118 femicides that occurred in Italy last year. In 2022, women were victims of 91% of homicides committed by family members, partners or ex-partners, according to the European Data Journalism Network.
“Violence against women is a phenomenon more or less present in all countries, caused by structural causes such as the disparity between men and women, stereotypes and prejudices,” Elena Biaggioni, vice president of DiRe, a national association that coordinates anti-violence centers. and women’s shelters, she said last June.
At a protest after a pregnant woman was allegedly stabbed to death by her partner, he added: “But, of course, in countries where there is a sexist culture and sexism is stronger, like Italy, this violence is justified in a way different”.
However, in the latest case, officials have focused their attention on the background of the alleged perpetrators.
The judge investigating the most recent case, Carlo Umberto Cannella, said the suspects were likely to reoffend because they were not “accustomed to civilization.”
He ruled out that everyone should remain in prison while the investigation is carried out.
“It seems clear that there is a danger of repetition of the crime, also taking into account that the horror only ended thanks to the young woman’s attempt to free herself,” Cannella said Wednesday in ruling that the suspects should not be released on bail. , according to a court spokesperson.
In a scathing opinion piece in the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale, founded by the family of the late former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the editors also blamed migration for the alleged rape in Sicily.
“Why are these people, without any requirement to access international protection, still in Italy and have not been subject to expulsion?” the editors wrote.
“Because upon arriving in our country they declared themselves minors and the law prevents rejecting irregular immigrants who have not yet reached the age of majority. Now they will go to trial for rape but, in the meantime, that little girl will forever carry the pain and trauma of the rape, suffered when she was only 13 years old. “This is not the first case of non-EU minors being received in Italian facilities and then engaging in criminal activities.”
Resources for survivors of sexual assault in Canada
- If you or someone you know is struggling with sexual assault or trauma, the following resources are available to help people in crisis:
- If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety, you should call 911.
- A complete list of sexual assault centers in Canada that offer information, advocacy and counseling can be found on the website of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centers.
- Helplines, legal services, and locations offering sexual assault kits can be found in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. here.
- National Residential School Crisis Line: +1 866 925 4419
- 24-hour crisis line: 416 597 8808
- Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline: +1 833 900 1010
- Trans lifeline: +1 877 330 6366
- Support in cases of sexual misconduct for current or former members of the Armed Forces: +1 844 750 1648
- Read about your rights as a victim here.