February 15, 1996: when sexual violence became a crime against the person

February 15, 1996: when sexual violence became a crime against the person

The story of rape and sexual violence: a centuries-long nightmare from which we all want to wake up forever

Once upon a time, not so long ago, there were crimes and violence against women who went unpunished, considered simple acts ready to harm public morality and morality. These were rape and sexual violence which, however, were outrageously justified due to the consideration, implicit or not, of the woman as the property of the man.

Because yes, in a patriarchal, macho and stereotyped society, there were only two sexual genders: the first, those who act and behave actively and the second, the passive ones, those who can only suffer. The latter are us.

So why woo a woman when you can also have her by force? And with the tacit consent of the rest of the company? Why be so indignant when instead we can minimize violence or normalize it as if it were something inexorable? Something that inevitably arises when men meet women, when they want them, even if they don't want them. Because theirs is almost a right, or worse, a physical need to be met in order not to risk undermining personal well-being.

Surreal, right? Yet this absurd belief dominated during the long and shameful stages in the history of rape, until February 15, 1996 when, finally, sexual violence became a crime against the person.

The culture of rape

Rape is a culture, to all intents and purposes. It is so to the extent that sexual violence is justified or minimized, when the act itself is even understood, when the woman is accused of being provocative and provocative, of wearing skimpy clothes or worse, of seeking it. Do all these statements remind you of anything? Probably yes, because they are the same even today we hear and read in the headlines, the same ones that cautiously specify that a woman was raped, and not that a man raped.

Yet the violence is many, too many. An Istat survey in 2014 brought to light a truly frightening number on the Italian situation: the Italian women victims of attempted rape are 746 thousand, those who have suffered a form of physical or sexual violence are 6 million and 788 thousand. And almost all of them have been raped by a man they know.

What is a rape?

But what exactly is rape? According to art. 609-bis of the Criminal Code, whoever commits rape with violence or threats or through abuse of authority, forces someone to perform or undergo sexual acts. The penalty is that of imprisonment, from 6 to 12 years.

But if today it seems obvious that this crime is committed to us, it must be prosecuted by the law, not too long ago it was not at all. Beyond the proposals that have followed one another to legally punish this crime, it is also necessary to remember the story of Franca Viola, the young woman kidnapped and raped in December 1965 by her suitor and forced into a shotgun wedding.

Because this was also foreseen, "thanks" and in article 544 of the criminal code, which acquitted any crime if the executioner agreed to marry the victim. But in that case it was Franca Viola who refused. His courage went down in history and changed it. The shotgun marriage was abrogated, then, in 1981. But in some countries, such as Haiti, it is still in force.

Before February 15, 1996

Before the law of February 15, 1996, rapes were considered simply as crimes against public morality and morality. Because the problem was only of a moralistic nature. Of course, no one could worry about the physical and psychological consequences of a woman.

Because if that had been the case, even the honor crime could not have existed, the one that provided the mitigation to the murder of a code that suspected or perceived any damage to its reputation. And be careful because we are not referring to a medieval law: the honor killing was abolished only in 1981.

Because women have always been guilty, in one way or another. Just think that in 1928, there were great prejudices for all those who dared to report rape. Yes, society considers them degenerate. Two centuries ago, for example, scientific theories held a single man incapable of committing sexual violence against more robust-looking women. The sentence, therefore, was only one: the women are lying. Why? According to the experts of the time, they did it only to put themselves at the center of attention. It is not clear to us by whom, obviously.

In 1947, psychiatrist Philip Piker answered all the questions of the time: women are prone to lies! And of sentences and judgments like these we could list them endlessly and all would lead there, to the Rocco Code. The law of the fascist period that defined rape as a simple crime against public morality and morality and which fits perfectly within the culture of rape.

From the Rocco Code to the law on sexual violence

The Rocco Code provided for a minimum penalty of three years which still allowed plea bargaining, probation and rehabilitation after 5 years. In a few years the crime was annulled, because after all the woman was the property of the man, she was destined for him.

It was not easy to arrive at the law on sexual violence despite proposals, over time, have been made. The first dates back to 1977, the second to 1980, when several feminist associations presented themselves with a popular proposal signed by 300,000 women.

And again in 1987, and then in 1995: the proposals followed the same criterion, that of considering sexual violence as a crime against the person. But to accept it, it was necessary to admit that sexuality is an essential right of a person, in this case of a woman, who owns it. And how to do this in a society monopolized by the patriarchal family?

Reform of the rules against sexual violence

The air of change was already in the air in 1986, but it took another ten years for the law against sexual violence to be passed. The male conception, in fact, continued to win, supported by the perverse and wrong morality of the society of the time. But in the end we did it, arriving at the fateful February 15, 1996.

With the law n. 66 of February 15, 1996, called "Norms against sexual violence", affirms the principle that rape is a crime against the person, who is forced into his sexual freedom, and not against public morality.

But the story does not end there. Getting out of the cultural heritage, in the following years and still today, was very difficult. Just take a look at some sentences of the Supreme Court, which intervened where the criminal code was not clear and needed an interpretation at the discretion of the judge.

April 1994: It is "difficult to hypothesize" sexual violence between spouses in the event of oral coitus as the woman "could in any case easily react and escape from carrying out the act she did not want".

August 1997: If the office manager demonstrates a "deep and sincere feeling" towards the secretary, he cannot be accused of sexual harassment at work, even if he invites her to dinner and attempts to kiss her.

February 1999: Impossible to commit rape on a girl wearing jeans. Thus the Supreme Court acquitted a driving school instructor convicted of rape in the first and second degree

February 2006: The damage is milder if the girl has already had sexual intercourse

April 2006: The crime of sexual violence can be punished less severely if it is committed in a degraded environmental context. The extremely degraded living conditions in which the facts take place do not only involve the victims but also the defendants themselves.

Fortunately, things have now changed, perhaps.

Read also

  • The shotgun wedding and the "no" that changed history
  • Beppe Grillo in the video did not defend his son, he offended all women
  • Gérard Depardieu investigated for rape and sexual assault
  • The real virus to protect ourselves from is that of violence against women
  • Matthew McConaughey, shocking autobiography: "Raped by a man at 18"
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