Italian Women Rally Against 'Macho Culture'


Thousands of Italian women rallied on Sunday, demanding greater rights and an end to discrimination and blaming the country's "macho culture" for its current crisis.

Their demonstration follows on from mass protests in February when women said "basta" to then-president Silvio Berlusconi, known for his playboy antics and now on trial for paying for sex with a 17-year-old escort.

"The government has changed, but not the country," said Cristina Comencini, one of the leaders of the movement "Se non ora quando?", or "If not now, when?"

"Women will not go away. They are still saying that we want to work, have children and be at the center of the (country's) growth plan.

"We tell the government that the well-being of women is not an expense but an investment," she said during the rally, held at the Piazza del Popolo, a square in central Rome.

Organizers said 20,000 people came to the rallies in the capital and in other Italian cities, including Turin and Venice.

The movement aims to protect the rights of women, including the right to work, ensure help for young mothers and battle discrimination.

Nichi Vendola, leader of the leftist Sinistra e Liberta party and governor of Apulia, said the country's debt and political crisis "is also the product of a vulgar and macho culture".

Giulia Bongiorno, a former MP with Berlusconi's party, demanded legislative change, saying that "in the center of Rome, there is not a single nursery, and at the chamber of deputies, there is a barber but no nursery".