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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Italian anti-racism and anti-extremism legislation is based on the contents of Italian Constitution. Article 3 of the Constitution guarantees all citizens equal treatment and social value without gender, race, language, religion, political views, and personal or social status related bias. In addition to that, article 6 of the “General Law” states that “Italy protects its linguistic minorities.”

Modern anti-racism and anti-extremism legislation started to develop in Italy in the 1990s. In June 1993 Italian Senate implemented a law designed to help fight racism (Legge Mancino, decreto-legge Nr. 205/1993). This law introduces a punishment of up to 3 years of imprisonment for religious, ethnic, and racial intolerance. The aforementioned law also prohibits the creation of any unions attempting to provoke discrimination against foreigners and nonconformists. This law is an updated and improved version of the 1975 law against racial discrimination, which was never used.

On February 24th 2006 the Law N.85 („Legge Castelli”) was accepted, which introduced legal repercussions for abusing the basic human right to free speech. Legge Castelli law introduced the concept of „incitement” replaced with „influencing an individual to take action”. Such phrasing ensures that it is taken into consideration if a person is not simply inciting racial hatred, but is also trying to influence another person to commit a hate crime. The new law has also reduced the prison sentence for hate crime from 3 years to 18 months. The new law was widely criticised for its rather subjective views on the right to freedom of speech.

Italian Constitution segregates the Catholic Church in its statement that “the State and the Catholic Church are independent and sovereign – both in their own areas”. Therefore it could be said that the Italian government puts the Catholic Church and itself on the same level. At the same time, Article 8 guarantees equality before the law to all religious. According to this article all non-Catholic religions have the right to establish organisations in accordance with their own regulations for as long as their actions do not threaten the Italian legal order. Articles 19 and 20 declare the right to freedom of worship and absence of restrictions for religious organisations.

Restrictive wording of the law, which talks about aims and not motives, as well as its failure to recognise mixed motives, narrowed the interpretation of the courts, posing limited applicability in practice.

Protection of linguistic minorities is regulated by the legislation passed on December 15th 1999. According to this piece of legislation, all languages, spoken by large groups of people residing in Italy, fall under the protection of the law. These languages are: Albanian, German, Slovenian and Croatian, Greek, French, and Franco-Provençal. Local authorities have the power to officially recognise a territory as largely inhabited by linguistic minorities, but this can only be done if it is requested by more than 15% of local electorate. If such recognition takes effect, the local schools, kindergartens, and city councils have to use the mother tongue of the recognised minority group as well as the State language.

Ministry of Education, as well as regional authorities, has the power to fund projects dedicated to ensuring that members of linguistic minorities have access to education and services in their mother tongue in places where they reside in large groups. Members of minorities also have the right to restore their name to its original format after “Italianisation”. Congruent laws have been passed in Friulian-Julia (2007) regarding Friulian and Slovenian languages , and in Sardinia (1997) regarding Sardinian language.

Italian anti-discrimination legislation is also based on the Constitution. As was already mentioned, Article 3 of the Constitution guarantees all citizens equal treatment and social value, while Article 6 of the “General Law” promises government protection to linguistic minorities. Article 8 guarantees equality before the law to all religious. According to this article all non-Catholic religions have the right to establish organisations in accordance with their own regulations for as long as their actions do not threaten the Italian legal order. Articles 19 and 20 declare the right to freedom of worship and absence of restrictions for religious organisations.

Legislation, explicitly outlawing any form of racial, religious, and origin-based discrimination, was passed in 1998. This legislation also contained regulations on discrimination prevention. Two new laws based on corresponding EU directives were introduced in 2003. These laws banned any forms of discrimination based on race, ethnic origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability, or age.

In 2011, new trial regulations for discrimination cases were introduced, which shifted the necessity to provide the burden of proof from plaintiff to the defendant. If the defendant was found guilty, the court now also had the right to not only invoke a fine, but also take measures ensuring that the offence would not happen again.

In 2005 segregated areas of Italia started legalising same-sex civil partnerships. Since then, same-sex civil partnerships have been made legal in the following regions: Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Campania, Marche, Puglia, Lazio, Liguria, and Abruzzo. In 2011 Italian Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to a family life, including (in certain cases) being treated the same as heterosexual married couples. However, at the same time Supreme Court also ruled that Italian legal system will not recognise same-sex marriages registered abroad.

20th February 2015 new legislation amending the Codice Penale (Criminal Code) with respect to fighting terrorism, has been approved by the Parliament. The new legislation on terrorism implies the following: Extension of international missions of the Italian Armed Forces and Police both abroad and at home; Cooperation and initiatives for the development and support of reconstruction process; Participation in initiatives of international organizations for the consolidation of peace and stabilization process.

Minorities in Italy are protected from discrimination by separate articles of the Constitution, as well as by laws passed in 1998 and 2003 about combating discrimination and the law of 1999 regarding rights of linguistic minorities. In 2013, homophobia became an aggravating circumstance in commission of crime. Article 19 prohibits readmission of immigrants if they were under threat of persecution in their home country due to their race, gender, language, citizenship, religious beliefs, political views, etc.

In July 2012, Italy adopted a Resolution N109, known as Rozarno Law, which introduced protection for migrant victims of exploitation. Law punishes exploitation of migrants, deprivation of government and EU subsidies and deprivation of licenses. Victims who cooperate with authorities during the trial can be provided with citizenship on humanitarian basis.

In 2013 Italian government introduced a series of measures implementing stricter regulations for employment-related immigration into the country. Specifically, on June 26th 2013 government issued a decree, according to which an employer must provide evidence that he was unable to find a suitable employee in Italy before hiring one from abroad.

In April 2014, Italy decriminalised illegal migration, making it an administrative offence.

A number of resolutions have been adopted that streamlined the migration process:

  • Resolution №717 – opens up opportunities for employment for foreign nationals.
  • Resolution №.718 – Ministry of Education, University and Research establishes a National Observatory for inter-cultural integration of foreign students, designed to promote a better integration of foreign students in Italian schools on every level (nurseries, elementary, middle and secondary) and to promote intercultural exchange.
  • Resolution, n№286/98 – establishes that foreign nationals can be registered in their local city council, providing that they can submit VISA certification, an entry permit, and a photocopy of their passport.
  • Resolution of the Council of Ministers (October 7, 2014) regulates the entry of athletes who are non-EU nationals.

October 20th Resolution regulates the Centres of Identification and Expulsion of illegal immigrants (commonly known as CIE). Those centres are often criticised and scrutinised by various International Human Rights organisations, due to frequent abuse and human rights violations. The decree is aimed at improving conditions in these centres, and one of the measures taken includes a “Chart of the Rights and Duties of the Foreign National”, which is distributed to all foreign nationals in CIEs. The Chart informs foreign nationals about their right to be informed, the right to communicate in their native language, the right to communicate with the outside world via telephone or letter and finally, the right to practice their religious beliefs. In October 2014, Italy adopted a law that reduced the maximum detention period of illegal migrants from 18 months to 90 days.

In April 2016, the Italian Senate criminalized the denial of the Holocaust, which was an important element in the formation of legislation against anti-Semitism and the heroization of Nazism. Under the new law, those individuals or groups that publish material or publicly declare Holocaust denial, or make statements in this sense on social networks, blogs or websites, can be sentenced up to 6 years of imprisonment and pay a fine of up to 6,000 euros.

In 2016 according to new legislation the Parliament allocated funding for programs to help the historical linguistic minorities living in the territory of the country. It is, first of all, the small groups in South Tyrol speaking German and Ladino, and the groups in Trieste and Gorizia speaking Slovene, the French-speaking Provencals living in Val d'Aosta, as well as a small part of the Albanian-speaking citizens from the South of the country.

The improvement of anti-discrimination legislation is related to the right to citizenship as a result of the recent reform of the Salvini Law 2018 and the Salvini Bis Law approved in October 2020, which shortens the period between applying for Italian citizenship and actually obtaining it. The latest reform on the acquisition of Italian citizenship confirms what was established in the previous legislation, i.e. renouncing citizenship only in case of terrorism or in case of conviction under Italian criminal law, and this is de facto another amendment to the previous legislation on this issue. Currently, the criteria for applying for Italian citizenship are as follows:

  • Birthright (it is possible to apply at the age of 18)
  • .
  • At adoption
  • .
  • By marriage
  • .
  • Inhabitation
  • .
  • On special merit

The right to citizenship remains a contentious point in the political debate with parties like Lega and Fratelli d'Italia strongly opposing the idea of legalization relief for immigrants and other foreign and ethnic minorities. This makes it difficult and often difficult for the more liberal political forces to completely update and revise the legislation on this issue. In the last decade, there has been a gradual deterioration in the collective imagination of the Italian population's perception of the foreigner or migrant, which also implies the popularity and political success of far-right parties and movements, as well as an increase in intolerance and prejudice against minorities living in Italy.

In such an environment, any changes or amendments made to previous legislation on migration and minority rights have evolved slowly and in small steps, in order to avoid popular outrage on the issue. Another minority that is often discriminated against is the LGBT community, whose representatives try to lobby authorities and public opinion for recognition of their rights and dignity. The LGBT community is still waiting for the Italian authorities to change the 2016 so-called "Legge Cirinná," which essentially regulates the activities of homosexual couples. In fact, Italy is the 35th country out of 49 European countries where LGBT rights are barely recognized. And while in 16 European countries both marriage and civil unions enjoy the same rights, in Italy these two civil rights do not necessarily overlap. This indicates a still high level of civil discrimination against the LGBT minority, which hardly enjoys the same rights as heterosexual couples in a similar situation. There is still much work to be done in the area of gender equality and LGBT rights in Italy.

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