Does Italy’s Meloni Fall Short for Women?

does italy's meloni fall short for women

does italy’s meloni fall short for women

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni abruptly ended her press conference after the annual NATO summit in Vilnius in July. She claimed that the issue was unrelated to the reporters’ inquiries: her painful high heels. 

For a previous generation of female leaders, who believed it was imperative to project a tough exterior, a complaint of that kind at such a hothouse of masculine energy as a NATO summit would have been unimaginable. 

However, the positive feedback on social media, especially from women, and the sympathetic coverage on women’s websites suggested that her decision to step aside had strengthened her reputation as a leader who is approachable and real. Additionally, it served as a reminder of the unjust standards that are placed on women, which Meloni has had to overcome to reach the top. 

One of the factors contributing to her high approval rating of 53% is the fact that real women find Italy’s top actress authentic. According to polling analysts Demopolis, Meloni’s party received the most votes from women during the election in September, at 25%.

Since the elections, her hard-right Brothers of Italy party has seen a rise in the polls and now holds a 29 percent share, primarily at the expense of parties led by her male coalition partners Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi, who passed away in June.

The election of Meloni signaled a long overdue turning point in Italian politics. With the election of Elly Schlein as the first female leader of the opposition Democratic Party shortly after, feminist activist Marina Terragni claimed that “a taboo has been broken in Italy.” 

However, after nine months in office, Meloni has caused a rift among observers over whether or not her victory represented a breakthrough for all Italian women. Both in Meloni’s parliamentary party and her cabinet, women are underrepresented.

She received support from some women for her initiatives to prevent domestic violence, including accelerated court proceedings, harsher penalties for offenders, increased child benefits, and a link between unemployment benefits and children. Terragni remarked, “She has made motherhood the center of politics.” 

However, opposition politicians assert that several of Meloni’s policies indirectly discriminate against women. 

Staying in the house

The elimination of unemployment benefits for those who could theoretically work, of which women with young children were the main beneficiaries, and tax breaks that the opposition claims encourage low-earning women to stay at home are included on a list created by Gilda Sportiello, an MP for the 5Star Movement. Meloni opposes a minimum wage because it would primarily help women. 

Women previously had fewer years of pension eligibility than men, but Meloni’s administration is limiting these rights. 

Improving gender equality, including women’s participation in the labor market, is one of the priorities of Italy’s €190 billion, EU-funded pandemic recovery plan. This has historically been a source of weakness for the nation.

Due to the previous administration’s allocation of more than €3 billion from the fund for nursery construction, Meloni may be able to fulfill her manifesto commitment to providing free nursery spaces for everyone.  

However, Italy was late in choosing the projects and had to make concessions to the EU to keep the funding. The current administration is held accountable by the government for the delay. 

Italy has a historic opportunity to address inequality thanks to the EU funds windfall. According to Valeria Manieri, the founder of Le Contemporanee, an organization that opposes gender discrimination, “For once Italy has the means to change things.” 

Despite Meloni’s assurances, there were concerns in the run-up to the election that she would attempt to weaken the constitutional provisions for abortion, which is permitted within 90 days and under certain circumstances. 

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The so-called 194 law, which legalized abortion, has not yet been touched by Meloni, but coalition members have drafted a law giving the fetus legal standing from conception, which would indirectly outlaw abortion. 

It is not a legal right- Abortion 

The government’s goals were evident when Eugenia Roccella, her equal opportunity minister, declared on television that “abortion is not a right,” according to Sportiello, a 5Stars MP. 

Sportiello believes that such discussion is risky even if Meloni does not systematically undermine civil rights about topics like abortion. Language is powerful; it steers the nation in the wrong direction and invites debate about these fundamental rights. Women in this country fear losing their rights and being carried away by the wind.

While Meloni takes care to portray herself as a moderate on the international stage, her government has introduced ideological policies at home as a way of appeasing her core far-right supporters. 

In response to a government directive, local officials stopped listing same-sex couples as parents, which resulted in the deletion of some women from birth certificates for their kids. The government contends that it is merely abiding by a constitutional court decision.

This is “unacceptable,” according to Manieri of Le Contemporanee, and “could have an avalanche effect.”

According to 5Stars MP Sportiello, the persecution of minorities “opens a tap,” allowing for wider discrimination. He cites the Emilia Romagna case in which the suspension of an entire class for verbally abusing a gay teacher.

Feminists can disagree with Meloni at times. The radical feminist Terragni supports the law because it prevents the exploitation of women, in contrast to younger women like Manieri who are against the criminalization of surrogacy. Motherhood “cannot be reduced to a transaction,” Terragni said of Meloni’s understanding of it. In contrast to more conventional allies on the left, she praised the government’s “strong” opposition to so-called “woke” language even though she admitted she didn’t vote for Meloni. 

Ignazio La Russa, a close friend of Meloni’s and a co-founder of the party, was charged with rape last month. 

One of the trickiest moments for Meloni’s premiership thus far came when La Russa, the Speaker of the Senate, the second-highest position of state after the President, claimed that he believed his son and blamed the alleged victim for using drugs.

He was defended by Roccella, the minister for equal opportunities, who claimed that he spoke as a father. 

As a woman, Meloni claimed, she “tended to empathize with the victim.” Sportiello, however, felt that she did not go far enough, and the incident was a manifestation of this government’s antiquated view of women. It sends a message that Meloni did not condemn him and that he was given protection. He would have to apologize to another government.

Such scandals, according to Manieri, are unavoidable when the party has expanded so quickly and struggles to find enough qualified people to fill critical positions. You will likely be surprised by statements that are improbable, bizarre, offensive, or institutional gaffes if you choose personalities with a particular pedigree to lead the government or the institutions.

The Meloni effect will unavoidably manifest itself before the European elections the following year. Noting the relative stability of Meloni’s government, female leaders like Ursula von der Leyen and Roberta Metsola have been surprisingly encouraging, trying to bring her inside the fold of European center-right politics. 

About Wrighter

Wrighter covers news across the global on Human Rights, Migrants Rights, and Labor Rights. Wrighter has vast experience in writing and is a doctor by profession.

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