ROME—Italy’s Justice Ministry has ordered a preliminary inquiry into an appeals court ruling that overturned a rape verdict in part by arguing that the woman who was attacked was too ugly to be a credible rape victim.
The ruling has sparked outrage in Italy, prompting a flash mob of 200 on March 11 outside the Ancona court, where protesters shouted “Shame!” and held up signs saying “indignation.”
The appeals sentence was handed down in 2017—by an all-female panel—but the reasons behind it only emerged publicly when Italy’s high court annulled it on March 5 and ordered a retrial. The Court of Cassation said Wednesday, March 13, its own reasons for ordering the retrial will be issued next month.
Two Peruvian men were initially convicted of the 2015 rape of a Peruvian woman in Ancona, but the Italian appeals court overturned the verdict and absolved them, finding that she was not a credible witness. In part of the ruling, the court noted that the suspects had found her unattractive and too “masculine” to be a credible rape victim.
The court also drew its conclusion from a photograph of the woman, reported The Guardian.
— NEWS on TOP (@newsontop007) March 11, 2019
“I read this sentence in 2017 and that’s why we referred it to the supreme court,” Cinzia Molinaro, the woman’s lawyer, told the Guardian.
“It was disgusting to read; the judges expressed various reasons for deciding to acquit them, but one was because the [defendants] said they didn’t even like her, because she was ugly. They also wrote that a photograph [of the woman] reflected this.”
Molinaro said her appeal to the Cassation contested a host of procedural problems with the acquittal verdict but said she had also cited the “absolute unacceptability” of the Italian court’s reference to the victim’s physical appearance.
The appeals sentence quoted one of the suspects as saying he found the woman unattractive and had her listed as “Viking” on his cellphone.
Molinaro claimed that the men spiked the woman’s drink after they went to a bar after an evening class. The woman, who has since returned to Peru, had suffered such genital trauma in the rape that she required stitches.
She was ostracized by the community in Ancona for reporting the men.
Hundreds protested outside an Italian court this week after it emerged that two men were acquitted of rape partly because judges believed the alleged victim looked too “masculine.” https://t.co/StylaTFnaz
— CNN International (@cnni) March 13, 2019
The Justice Ministry said it was conducting the “necessary preliminary investigations” into the appeals verdict. Molinaro said the ministry can send investigators to a court to check if there were any problems or omissions in the sentence, even when the case is still under appeal.
“The worst thing is the cultural message that came from three female judges who acquitted these two men because they decided that it was improbable that they would want to rape someone who looked masculine,” Luisa Rizzitelli, a spokesperson for Rebel Network, the women’s group that organized the Ancona protest told The Guardian.
“It’s shameful. But to get almost 200 people at the protest was a miracle for Italy–fortunately, it shows that sensitivity towards such topics is becoming stronger.”
— New York Post (@nypost) March 12, 2019
The case is the second to spark criticism in recent weeks in Italy, where cases of sexual violence and the murders of women regularly top the news.
Protests broke out earlier this month after an appeals court in Bologna nearly cut in half the sentence for a man who admitted to killing his partner. The court cited as one of its reasons for the reduction was the “emotional storm” of jealousy that the killer experienced. Critics said the reduced sentence basically sanctioned the practice of “honor killings.”
The Epoch Times reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.