NOW Newsline

by Jill Roth, Press Intern and Lisa Bennett-Haigney, Publications Manager

Italian Court Rules Jeans Can Stop Rape

Women around the world protested a controversial ruling in Italy that suggested that women cannot be raped if they are wearing jeans. The appeals court ruling overturned the conviction of a 45-year-old male driving instructor found guilty of raping an 18-year-old student.

There are 410 male judges and 10 female judges on Italy's highest court of appeals. Five of these judges made the ruling, which includes the assertion that it is "common knowledge that it is nearly impossible to even partially remove jeans from a person without their cooperation, since this operation is already very difficult for the wearer." The ruling implies that if a woman wearing jeans is raped, she must not be fighting hard enough.

The judges sent the case back for retrial. The woman had already gone through two trials and has indicated she does not want to go to court again.

Female members in Italy's parliament protested by wearing jeans and picketing with signs reading "Jeans: the alibi for rape." The enraged women legislators are making efforts to have the ruling changed. Demonstrations of support took place in Australia as well as on the state Assembly floor in California.

Italy just amended its rape laws three years ago, after numerous years of social and political controversy. Lawmakers changed the charge for sexual assault from a moral offense to a criminal felony and increased the penalty.

Radical Right Takes Homophobia to New Realm: Teletubbyland

The latest target in the religious political extremists' anti-lesbian and gay crusade is one of the round, fuzzy alien-like stars of a popular children's show airing on PBS. The Rev. Jerry Falwell reportedly criticized the program "Teletubbies," claiming that the character Tinky Winky is an "intentional" gay role model.

In the National Liberty Journal, the publication of Falwell's Liberty University, an article attributed to Falwell alerted parents to signs that the show might morally corrupt childen viewers. Tinky Winky, the article notes, has a boy's voice but carries a red purse. The Reverend exposes "further evidence" that the character is gay, informing readers that Tinky Winky's purple color is a symbol of gay pride, as is the triangular antenna on his head.

Whether Falwell wrote the piece or, as he now claims, a staffer did, someone at Liberty University apparently is alarmed by media reports stating that gays have been embracing Tinky Winky as a tongue-in-cheek icon since the show debuted in England in 1997. His warning indicates, however, that Falwell (or his staffer) does not think pondering the implied sexual preference of a creature with a television in its tummy is funny.

Kenneth Viselman, president of Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the show in the U.S., remarked, "We're talking about a show for 1 to 4 year-olds. If we had a homosexual they wouldn't even know it."

NOW Action Vice President Elizabeth Toledo adds, "My kids love the Teletubbies. The attack on this innocent show would be laughable if it weren't such a disturbing sign of how far the radical right will go to demonize the lesbian and gay community. In the spirit of outrageousness, NOW would love to invite Tinky Winky to appear at our Lesbian Rights Summit. He will surely find support there."

PBS says that parents should not worry-they have no intention of taking the children's show off the air.

V-Day—the Movement Spreads Across the Country

V-Day started out just last year on February 14, 1998, with a star-studded performance of "The Vagina Monologues," a play consisting of intimate narratives based on women's real-life experiences as told to writer Eve Ensler. Ensler decided to turn her play into a movement dedicated to creating a world where women can live safely and freely. She chose Valentine's Day as this day to celebrate women and end violence against them.

The V-Day mission statement incorporates ending rape, sexual abuse of children, battery and genital mutilation. This year V-Day events took place at over 65 colleges. There is now V-Day Men, a committee of men who are working to end violence against women. Plans are already underway for a gala event at Madison Square Garden on V-Day 2001. Connect to for more information about this growing movement.

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