Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Amy J. Everhart

First Page



In 1996, the Italian Parliament enacted a new rape law, replacing a law written in 1936 under the direction of Fascist-era leader Benito Mussolini. While the old law classified rape as a crime against public morality, the new law declares it a crime against the person. That it took sixty years to reform the law is a reflection of Italy's long history of subordinating its women. That the law has finally been reformed is a reflection that those women have united to change that attitude. This Note discusses the history of the rape law in Italy and the role of Italian women in forcing its reform. The Note begins by describing the history of women in Italy, from the pre-fascist era to the present. It then discusses the evolution of the rape law itself, from its conception to its 1996 revision. The Note next conducts a legal analysis of the current rape law. It then considers how the new law will affect the men and women in a country that has traditionally preferred its women scantily clad on magazine covers rather than power-dressed in Parliament. The Note concludes that while the new rape law will be successful in drawing attention to the problem of rape in particular and the recognition of women as equal to men in general, Italian women must persevere in their efforts to change their country's deeply entrenched attitudes toward women.