Italian court condemned for 'sexist stereotypes' in gang rape case

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 27 May 2021 15:10 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: The building of the European Court of Human Rights is seen in Strasbourg, France, January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

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European Court of Human Rights criticises Italian court for comments about woman's underwear and relationships

By Emma Batha

LONDON, May 27 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Europe's top rights court criticised an Italian court on Thursday for "revictimising" a woman who said she had been gang raped, accusing it of perpetuating "sexist stereotypes" that could undermine trust in the country's judicial system.

The case concerned an appeal hearing in the city of Florence which led to the acquittal of six men previously convicted of attacking the student in a car after a party in 2008.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) said language and arguments used by the appeals court "conveyed prejudices existing in Italian society regarding the role of women".

In particular, it said references to the woman's red underwear were unjustified, as were comments regarding her bisexuality, her relationships and casual sexual relations.

The Florence Court of Appeal was also wrong to draw inferences from the woman's decision to take part in an explicit film made by one of the men some months prior to the party.

Language and arguments used by the court "were likely to be an obstacle to providing effective protection for the rights of victims of gender-based violence", said the ECHR.

It said the woman's right to privacy under the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated and ordered the Italian state to pay her 12,000 euros in damages ($14,630).

The Strasbourg-based court said criminal proceedings played a key role in tackling violence against women.

Courts must therefore avoid "reproducing sexist stereotypes" or exposing women to secondary victimisation by making "guilt-inducing and judgmental comments" that could undermine victims' trust in the justice system.

The ECHR was not asked to consider the Florence Court of Appeal's verdict itself.

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(Reporting by Emma Batha @emmabatha; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

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