Italian court: Not a virgin? Sex crimes aren't as serious
Mussolini's granddaughter slams all-male court after recent rulings
ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- Sexually abusing a teenager is less serious a crime if the girl is not a virgin, Italy's higher court said on Friday in a controversial ruling that immediately drew a barrage of criticism.
The court ruled in favor of a man in his forties, identified only as Marco T., who forced his 14-year old stepdaughter to have oral sex with him after she refused intercourse.
The man, who has been sentenced to three years and four months in jail, lodged an appeal arguing that the fact that his stepdaughter had had sex with men before should have been taken into consideration during his trial as a mitigating factor.
The supreme court agreed, saying that because of her previous sexual experiences, the victim's "personality, from a sexual point of view, is much more developed than what would be normally expected of a girl of her age".
"It is therefore fair to argue that (the damage for the victim) would be lower" if the abused girl was not a virgin, Italian news agencies quoted the court as saying.
This means the man could now be handed a lighter sentence.
News of the ruling immediately drew fire.
"I think we have gone back 50 years," said Maria Gabriella Carnieri Moscatelli, head of the Telefono Rosa association that helps sexually abused women.
"It is inconceivable that such a serious crime that ruins the life of a woman, irrespective of her age, might be considered in a different light depending on whether she is a virgin," she said.
Female politicians from across the political spectrum also strongly condemned the court's decision.
"This is a shameful, devastating ruling," said Alessandra Mussolini, grand-daughter of wartime fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. "The real problem is that there are no women in the supreme court."
Luana Zanella of the Greens opposition party called the court's arguments "abominable".
The supreme court is no stranger to controversial judgments.
In recent years it has ruled that "an isolated and impulsive" pat on a woman's buttocks at work did not constitute sexual harassment, and returned a verdict that a woman could not have been raped because she was wearing skin-tight jeans.