Two men in Italy were just cleared of rape charges because the alleged victim looked “too masculine”

DEA / M. BORCHI / GettyAerial view of the Church of Sts Peregrine and Teresa, Ancona, Marche, 18th century.
  • Protests broke out in Italy on Monday following news that two men were cleared of rape charges in 2017 because their alleged victim was “too masculine.”
  • Three female judges acquitted the men and claimed the woman’s story must not be credible because she didn’t look feminine enough and wasn’t considered attractive by her alleged attackers.
  • The case has sparked outrage in Italy and raised questions about the treatment of rape victims. Almost one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in the country, according to a report from the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Two men were cleared of rape charges in 2017 because the alleged victim was “too masculine,” sparking protests in the Italian city of Ancona on Monday.

Demonstrators gathered outside the court in Ancona, a seaside Italian town located off the Adriatic coast, shouting “for shame!” and accusing the Italian justice system of a “witch hunt,” according to video footage from Italian media.

The men allegedly attacked and raped the 22-year-old woman in 2015 and were convicted the following year, according to The Guardian. They were then acquitted by the Ancona appeals court after the three judges – who were all female – said the woman’s story must not be credible because she didn’t look feminine enough and wasn’t deemed attractive by her alleged attackers.

The judges also acknowledged that it was “not possible to exclude the possibility that it was” the alleged victim who organised the evening that led to her ultimately being drugged and raped, according to SBS News. The judges wrote that the alleged perpetrators “didn’t even like the girl, to the point of having stored her number in his phone under the nickname ‘Viking,’ an allusion to an anything but feminine figure, rather a masculine one.”

The judges claimed that a photograph of the woman, present in her file, helped them reach their decision.

The 2017 ruling came to light on Friday when Italy’s highest appeal court scrapped the lower court’s verdict and ordered a retrial. The case will be reheard by a court in Perugia, around two hours away from Ancona.

Almost one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence in Italy, according to a report from the European Institute for Gender Equality, and five per cent of women have been a victim of rape or attempted rape. The government enacted a national plan against gender-based violence and stalking in 2010, as well as the 2015 ‘Special plan against sexual violence and gender-based violence,’ which expanded women’s support services, to address these issues.

But, problems remain with how rape victims are treated in Italy. Cinzia Molinaro, the woman’s attorney, told the Guardian that her client moved back to Peru, where she is originally from, after facing backlash from the community for reporting her abusers.

“It was distgusting to read,” Molinaro told the Guardian. “The judges expressed various reasons for deciding to acquit them, but one was because the [defendants] said they didn’t even like her, because she was ugly.”

Luisia Rizzitelli, a spokesperson for Rebel Network, the women’s rights group that organised Monday’s protest, described the judges’ ruling as medieval, telling the Guardian “the worst thing is the cultural message that came from three female judges who acquitted these two men because they decided it was improbable that they would want to rape someone who looked masculine.”

“Rape does not fulfil a desire for pleasure, but an abominable hatred and contempt for the victim,” Rebel Network posted on Twitter. “It does not depend on how feminine you are, but on the hatred inside the rapist.”

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