Sexual Education is power: open letter to the Italian Government

 

 

Dear President Boldrini,

Minister Boschi,

Minister Giannini,

Minister Lorenzin,

President Renzi,

 

 

 

We, the undersigned, have assembled around ‘F Come’, an organisation which promotes equal opportunities in Italy and Europe. We include representatives of a multitude of organisations and third sector entities, as well as academics, educators, psychotherapists, legal experts, activists, and social workers.

 

We know the wave of sexual abuse and rapes that we have witnessed over the last few months, has profoundly moved you all.

 

President Renzi, you recently asserted that the Italian government “cannot do a lot” about violence against women, on the basis that above all, we are dealing with a battle that is “cultural, social and political with a capital P”. The idea that such a battle should be fought by civil society as a whole, has long been shared by the undersigned and has informed our work within our respective communities.

 

However, we feel that the government and political classes have the resources and opportunities to make a more effective contribution. As well as the urgent need for the financing of rape crisis centres, a discussion also needs to take place around the addition of sexual and emotional education to our school curricula - an education sensitive to the themes of gender, informed consent and every form of violence. This formative work cannot be limited to primary and secondary schools; it must also be extended to universities, as it already does in several countries across Europe.

 

The 2015 Good School Bill (Decreto Buona Scuola) marked an important step in promoting a greater awareness of equal opportunities on the national curriculum, thus taking vital steps towards the prevention of gender-based violence and discrimination. Unfortunately, the media storm and the initiatives of various local authorities have impeded the drafting of specific guidelines. The national recommendations of the Ministry for Education and Research (MIUR), aimed at school curricula of every stage of education, remain vague. Despite general allusions to “awareness and care of the body”, “different relations with others” and “sexuality and emotions”, there are no clear references to any objectives, timeframes or procedures for putting these into practice.

 

An unmistakable link exists between gender-based violence and a lack of effective education policies. Too many women suffer violence at the hands of their partners or acquaintances, without the knowledge that their experiences qualify as abuse. Furthermore, the collective imagination too often believes the stereotype that rapists and abusers are solely strangers who are encountered casually in public spaces.

 

We can, and should, teach our children how to label violence with its proper name - be it domestic abuse, cyber-bullying, or peer pressure in a group of friends. We can, and should, also teach that other people are individuals with their own needs, how to communicate and negotiate needs and space, deal with rejection, and know one’s own body and emotions in order to be able to consent (or not) to any experience with true awareness.

 

However, raising awareness of gender-based violence will be impossible to achieve without discussions surrounding sexual desire, gender differences and the pervasive and toxic stereotypes attached to masculinity. Wilfully choosing not to address these themes does not protect the safety of children and teenagers, and instead leaves them in a more vulnerable position. They are left without the language needed to interpret the rapidly changing but deep-rooted phenomenon that is violence against women.

 

We believe that the responsibility for providing these tools lies not only with family, but also with the community that surrounds it, including institutions and politics. We believe it is the role of the government to support the development of such tools, to outline clearly the educational modules for implementation in national curricula within primary schools, secondary schools and up to universities.

 

We do not see ourselves as exempt from this task either. We, the undersigned, are women and men with a vast range of experience across the spectrum of gender-based violence. We have undertaken both analytical and participatory roles within national and foreign educational projects, including the Italian festival Educare alle Differenze and the consent-workshops of many British universities. We have also been involved in organisations such as the Sexual Well-Being Foundation-The Great Initiative in Britain, Serlo in Germany, Ponton in Poland and the White House task force which tackles sexual violence in American campuses.

 

Our goal is to concentrate this expertise, together with that of others already existing in Italy, to facilitate a constructive dialogue with the Government, the Parliament and all local institutions for the rapid implementation of effective educational tools. Starting from now, we can fight this battle that is so close to your heart, President Boldrini and Ministers, and that you, President Renzi, called ‘political with a capital P’.

 

 

 

 

Lilia Giugni, F Come, University of Cambridge

Alessandra De Luca, F Come

Chiara De Santis, F Come, European Commission

Eleonora Sconci, F Come, European Commission

Francesca Di Nuzzo, F Come

Daniela De Luca, F Come

Laura De Santis, F Come

Dr. Iole Fontana, F Come, Università degli Studi di Catania

Giulia Nicolini, F Come, School of Oriental and African Studies

Lorena Gazzotti, University of Cambridge

Clara Stella, University of Leeds

Benedetta Carlotti, Scuola Normale Superiore

Lucia Rubinelli, London School of Economics

Dr. Elisabetta Brighi, University of Westminster

Ilaria Todde, LGBT+ rights activist

Barbara Celentani, psychologist

Dr. Pietro Delcorno, University of Leeds

Elena Tognoni, rape crisis centre staff, Lombardia

Dr. Federica Favuzza, Università degli Studi di Milano

UDI Nazionale - Unione Donne in Italia

Giulia Ritornello, teacher, Lombardia

Emilia Del Franco, Edizioni Bibliopolis

Prof. Nadia Urbinati, Columbia University

Prof. Donatella Della Porta, Scuola Normale Superiore

Prof. Salvatore Veca, Università di Pavia

Società Italiana delle Letterate

Librati-Libreria delle Donne di Padova

Chayn Italia

ArciLesbica Associazione Nazionale

Fondazione Genere Identità Cultura

Prof. Gigliola Sulis, University of Leeds

Camilla Biondi, graduate in clinic psychology

Simona Maltese, social project manager

Laura Corpaccini, psychologist

Bianca De Rosario, Ecole des hautes études en santé publique

Maria Lea Madonna, psychotherapist and sex therapist

Enzo Le Fevre Cervini, Budapest Centre for the Prevention of

Genocides and Mass-Atrocities

Agedo Nazionale

Silvana Berardesca, teacher, Campania

Emrys Travis, F Come, Cambridge University LGBT*Campaign

Ellen Davis-Walker, F come, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Francesca Biancani, Università di Bologna

Giacomo Baldo, University of Leeds

Michela Pusterla, Università di Bologna

Maria Teresa Sarpa, teacher, Lazio

Davide Baraldi, priest

Dr. Angelica Pesarini, researcher

Dr. Olivia Santovetti, University of Leeds

Dr. Alasia Nuti, University of York

Chiara Paoli, Associazione Te@

Carla Reale, Associazione Te@

Dr. Eleonora Paris, Università di Teramo

Matt Hayward, teacher, Veneto

Giulia Sorrentino, psychologist

Valentina Compagnini, teacher, Piemonte

Chiara Lora, psychologist

Dr. Tiziano Distefano, Politecnico di Torino

Nadia Correale, FAO

Dr. Valentina Scotti, Koc University, Istanbul

Antonella Moscati, writer

Vanessa Tulli, lawyer

Orietta Poti, teacher, Lombardia

Stefania Farrace, teacher and activist

Prof. Ruth Rubio Marin, European University Institute of Florence

Cristina Barbieri, counsellor

Donatella Pigozzi, teacher, Lombardia

Marina Santucci, Soprintendenza per i Beni Architettonici,

Paesaggistici, Storici, Artistici di Napoli e provincia

Loredana Amabile, lawyer

Emilia Mazza, teacher, Calabria

José Ramon Pernía Morales, psychotherapist

Prof. Stefania Pacchi, Università di Siena

Elisa Mandraffino, teacher, Germany

Ida Santalucia, lawyer

Federica Tammarazio, Associazione Pentesilea, Turin

Dr. Mariaserena Viceconte, LUISS Guido Carli

Società Italiana delle Storiche (SIS)

Giulia Leone, correctional service manager

Ipazia- Studiose Euro-Mediterranee

Milena Potì, graphic designer

Susanna Ferrari, psychologist

Lorenzo Gasparrini, philosopher and blogger

Maria Rosaria Antonelli, psychotherapist

Juri Fischetti, teacher, Lazio

Associazione Camera a Sud

Angela Candela, psychoterapist

Centro di Documentazione sui Conflitti Ambientali

Sara Vallone, social worker

Grazia Doni, lawyer

Alfonso Perugini, Medici con l'Africa

Fara Taddei, University of Illinois

Patrizia De Luca, notary

Ilaria Cacace, graphic designer

Claudia Esposito, teacher, Campania

Dawn Borg Costanzi, FAO

A Sud Onlus

Paola Terenziano, F Come

Livia Alessandro, F Come

Emanuela Molinaro, teacher, Lombardia

Huda Mohsin Alsahi, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa

Maria Valeria Caredda, NTL società cooperativa di traduzione editoriale

Lorenzo Gaioni, lawyer

Dr. Lucia Sorbera, University of Sidney

Ludovica Siani, journalist

Marta Musso, University of Cambridge

Orsola Battaggia, Heian Jogakuin University

Daniela Doris, F Come, illustrator

Ida De Costanzo, biologist

Marta Gallina, marketing and communication manager

Young Women Network

Valentina Brogna, European Women Lobby, Italian Contingent

 

 

 

(Photo creator_Laura De Santis and Daniela Doris)