Despite Legal Reforms, Old Ideas about Rape Persist in Italy

July 28, 2010

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Italian members of parliament protesting the 1999 court decision that let a rapist go free because his victim was wearing tight jeans.

Italy's modern rape laws were written in the 1930's during the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini when rape was considered a crime against a woman's honor. The laws were changed in 1996 after a strong push from the Italian women's movement.

Rape became classified as a crime against a person, not a crime against public morals. Sentencing was increased from a three-year minimum to five. And the law no longer distinguished between crimes that included intercourse and crimes of acts of lust, which had carried a lighter sentence.

Rachel Van Cleave is Professor of Law at Golden Gate University. Worldview producer Alexandra Salomon spoke with her about how the Italian justice system treats cases of rape.