LGBTQ Plus

Why Italy Is So Slow In Protecting LGBTQ From Violence

Proposed Italian legislation to punish public acts of homophobia continues to be blocked by both the Catholic Church and right-wing politicians. But the country's most popular rapper has entered the debate.

LGBTQ protest in Milan, Italy, October 2020.
LGBTQ protest in Milan, Italy, October 2020.
Clémence Guimier

-Analysis-

Whether it's newlywed visitors to the canals of Venice, lovers under Romeo's and Juliet's balcony in Verona or bronze-skinned couples on the beaches of Sicily, public displays of affection have long been part of the everyday scenery in Italy. But if you're gay, it could put your life at risk.

As reported in Corriere della Sera, Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno, a 24-year-old from Nicaragua, was assaulted on a Rome metro platform in February after he'd exchanged a kiss with his boyfriend, Alfredo Zenobio, 28. Before them, a young man had to go under reconstructive surgery after a group of seven people beat him up. His crime? Holding hands with his partner in the central Italian city of Pescara.

These and other stories (with video evidence) have been widely shared by LGBTQ activists who continue to call for a better legal protection of gay people. Some 8,000 people turned out last Saturday for a demonstration urging senators to pass long-awaited anti-homophobia legislation, La Repubblica reported.

Italy remains one of the few European countries deprived of a law specifically punishing homophobic discrimination and violence — the Netherlands passed its Equal Treatment Act as early as 1994, while Britain and France respectively passed similar discrimination protections in 2003 and 2004.

Too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family.

Over the course of the last 25 years, many attempts have been made by legislators to include LGBTQ rights in Italian law with the most recent being "Ddl Zan", a bill drafted last November by Parliament Member Alessandro Zan. If approved by the Parliament, this new law would punish violence and hate speech with additional fines of up to $7,200 and four years in prison.

With the historical influence of the Catholic Church, too many in Italy still see gay people as a threat to the traditional idea of a family. Despite recognizing same-sex unions five years ago, Italy has the highest rate of social, political and institutional homophobia in Europe, according to the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

Catholic organisations such as Courage continue to categorize homosexuality as a disease, reports Italian news website Linkiesta, proposing to cure it through so-called "conversion therapy," a practice still legal in Italy.

Though Pope Francis has gone further than any of his predecessors in defending the rights of LGBTQ, the Italian Bishops Conference and rightwing politicians continue to block progress. "There is no need for a new law," the Bishops said in a statement. "(It) would risk opening up to controls on freedom; whereby, rather than sanctioning discrimination, the expression of a legitimate opinion would be targeted." Right-wing League party leader Matteo Salvini recently declared that his duty was to "defend the right of a child to have a mother and a father."

Salvini_Italy_protest

Matteo Salvini joins a demonstration against a proposed trans-homophobia law, in Rome, in June 2020. — Photo: Tenagli Piero/Abaca/ZUMA

Ever since November, the hate-crime legislation has been blocked in the Senate by Salvini's party allies, recently citing the priorities of the pandemic as a reason to stonewall.

One potential breakthrough came at a widely viewed televised concert on May 1 when popular Italian rapper Fedez took to the stage to accuse the League of homophobia. The 31-year-old rapper, very publicly married to fashion icon Chiara Ferragni, made his declaration in Rome, just a mile or so from the metro station where Christopher Jean Pierre Moreno was punched for simply kissing the man he loves.

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat


CAUCHARI
— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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