Rome

'Femicide' action calls renewed after murders

Acid attack also highlights violence against Italian women

'Femicide' action calls renewed after murders

Rome, August 13 - Two murders of women by former partners, as well as a vicious acid attack, in less than a week has again highlighted the troubling issue of violence against women in Italy and heightened calls for stiffer government measures against the crimes. The most recent death came Monday night in the Sicilian town of Avola where Antonio Mensa, 58, used a rifle to shoot dead Antonella Russo, 48, as she was hanging clothes at her mother's house. Mensa, who was in the process of separating from his wife, then turned the weapon on himself. The couple had three children, including a four-year-old who witnessed the slaying. Although his mother told the boy to hide in the bushes when she saw Mensa arrive, the child instead ran to get help, crying: "Papa has killed Mama," police said. The mayor of Avola is considering whether to declare a candlelight vigil for the family while the local priest said the killings show a breakdown in society's values. "Life must be lived and not destroyed," said Fortunato Di Noto, pastor of Madonna del Carmine in Avola. "No event, even if negative, should generate such inhuman violence. With these gestures, we all lose". The fact that Russo had complained to police that her former husband had been stalking her did not ultimately protect her, although a new decree passed last week by the Italian government - designed to beef up protection for women from violence - now promises arrest for stalkers. That might also have helped Lucia Bellucci, 31, who was murdered last Friday after she was lured to a restaurant in Trento by well-known Verona lawyer Vittorio Ciccolini, 44. He was arrested Monday after the body of Bellucci, a wellness centre worker, was found in the trunk of his car. Bellucci, 31, had complained to police that Ciccolini was stalking her after she ended their two-year relationship, police said. And Monday, a woman was attacked and acid thrown in her face by an unknown assailant at her workplace in a hospital in Genoa. The 46-year-old woman sustained serious damage to her eyes, and her arms were also burned, less seriously. The assailant's head and eyes were covered, making identification difficult but police are investigating. Approximately 80 women have been killed this year in Italy, mostly often by ex-partners, prompting the government to issue a decree stiffening penalties and increasing protection for women from domestic violence. "We promised tough action against everything that goes under the name of femicide, now that promise is kept," Prime Minister Enrico Letta said after the decree was passed. "At the heart of this decree, we want to send a strong signal of radical change on the subject". The bill aims to prevent, punish and protect women from violence, including stalking, said Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano. "We have...approved a series of rules with three objectives: to prevent gender-based violence, punish...and protect the victims," said Alfano, who is also interior minister. That includes mandatory arrest for stalking and family abuse, with the abusive spouse subject to immediate removal from the home where there is any risk of violence. Italians have also been shocked by some instances in which public figures appeared to blame the victim for some crimes against women. Last Christmas, an Italian priest sparked controversy when he said women were partly to blame for the violence they face. Father Piero Corsi saw his duties suspended for several weeks as the parish priest of San Terenzo di Lerici in the region of La Spezia in northwestern Italy after he posted a pre-Christmas flyer on the church bulletin board, suggesting that women provoked violence against them. His leaflet, entitled "Women and Femicide – Healthy self-criticism. How often do they provoke?" caused an uproar.

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