Press release: The killing of the Italian bill against hate crime and hate speech in the Senate is the perfect reason why European legislation is needed

Brussels, 29 October 2021

On 27 October 2021, the majority of the Italian Senate voted to kill a bill on measures to prevent violence and discrimination on the grounds of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

The bill, tabled by Alessandro Zan (Partido Democratico), would have protected LGBT persons, as well as also disabled persons and women, against violence and hate speech. Its adoption last year in the lower house of the Italian Parliament had received an overwhelming majority.

The defeat of the law is irreversible and a new law on the same subject matter can only be presented in 6 months with a different text. The bill was defeated with a procedure provided for in the Senate Rules of Procedure, whereby before the consideration of the articles of a bill, one senator from each group may make a proposal for it not to be considered. The request, presented by the Fratelli d’Italia and Lega parties, was accepted by the President of the Senate and voted secretly. Despite complying with the rules, this practice is against the praxis of the Senate. 154 senators voted against examining the bill’s articles, while 131 voted to discuss them and two others abstained. The legislative procedure therefore ended.

Fabio Massimo Castaldo MEP (Non-attached), Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup, comments:

What happened in the Italian Senate this week is a disastrous event. Not only did the Senate miss an opportunity to take a strong stance against hate speech and hate crime, it also saw some opposition Senators openly cheering and applauding the defeat of this bill. This is not the Italy we should be defending, because granting greater protection against hatred is not charity – it is the duty of any democratic state and an obligation towards its people. The Intergroup had previously addressed the Senate to call for the democratic process to be followed. What the Senate did this week is incomprehensible.

Marc Angel MEP (S&D), Co-Chair of the LGBTI Intergroup, concludes:

Hatred lives and is fostered in environments where it is not challenged, where it can grow undisputed and unchallenged. The Zan bill would have directly counteracted this reality in Italy, where activists and civil society have put so much effort, time and dedication to simply be better protected by the state and law enforcement. Albeit extremely disappointing, this development can only mean one thing to this Parliament: that the upcoming proposal on hate crime and hate speech by the Commission must imperatively contemplate the situation and cover all the necessary grounds so as to ensure that hatred does not win against the ability to love, to be oneself and to be free from harm.


Background:

Despite the progress in the lower house, the bill had already been made hostage in the Senate by the Chair of the Justice Committee, Andrea Ostellari (Lega), who refused to schedule a vote on different occasions.[1] At that moment, in April 2021, the LGBTI Intergroup wrote to the Chair, the President of the Italian Senate and all the remaining Italian Senators asking them to proceed with the debate and vote on the bill, in full respect of the democratic process in the Senate.[2]

The European legal framework on hate crime and hate speech will nevertheless be the subject of modernisation during this mandate. On 12 November 2020, the European Commission launched the “LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025”, in which it committed to “present an initiative in 2021 to extend the list of ‘EU crimes’ (Article 83 TFEU) to cover hate crime and hate speech, including when targeted at LGBTIQ people.”

On 25 May 2021, the LGBTI Intergroup wrote to the Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, asking whether the legislative proposal would contemplate not only sexual orientation, but also gender identity and sex characteristics.[3] The reply mentioned that the EC is conducting preparatory work and had commissioned a study to map in detail national provision of Member States’ legal systems that criminalise hate speech and crime, including on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics (SOGISC). It added that once preparatory work had finished, the EC would be able to circumscribe the “new area of crime” under Art. 83 TFEU. The legislative proposal has not yet been published.


Press contacts:

Office of Fabio Castaldo MEP – Francesca Acampora (Francesca.Acampora@europarl.europa.eu)

Office of Marc Angel MEP – Daniel Constantinides (Daniel.Constantinides@europarl.europa.eu)


[1] Guardian (4 April 2021), “Far right puts brakes on a new law that aims to stamp out homophobia in Italy”, accessible at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/04/far-right-puts-brakes-on-a-new-law-that-aims-to-stamp-out-homophobia-in-italy.

[2] LGBTI Intergroup (20 April 2021), letter titled “Urgency in putting the bill on measures to prevent violence and discrimination to a vote in the Justice Committee of the Italian Senate”, available at http://lgbti-ep.eu/2021/04/20/meps-write-to-italian-senate-on-bill-on-measures-to-prevent-violence-and-discrimination-on-grounds-of-sex-gender-sexual-orientation-gender-identity-and-disability/.

[3] LGBTI Intergroup (25 May 2021), letter titled “The upcoming extension of the list of EU crimes and the missing grounds of ‘gender identity’ and ‘sex characteristics’”, available at http://lgbti-ep.eu/2021/05/25/intergroup-addresses-commissioner-for-equality-regarding-upcoming-hate-crime-and-speech-legislation/.

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