In Brief

Men cleared of rape because woman ‘too masculine’

Hundreds protest against female judges’ ruling that alleged victim was too unattractive to be target

Around 200 people protested outside an Italian court of appeal on Monday after it emerged that two men were cleared of rape because the alleged victim was deemed “too masculine” to be a target.

Both men, who have not been identified, were originally convicted in 2016 of raping the Peruvian-born woman, reports The Guardian. But that ruling was overturned the following year by a trio of female judges, whose reasoning document included the argument that “the woman’s story was not credible enough as she resembled a man and was therefore unappealing”, the newspaper says.

 The judges based their ruling on a photograph of the alleged victim and “statements made by the defendants, who said they were not attracted to her”, adds The Sun.

The reasoning behind the verdict of the lower court, in the northern city of Ancona, came to light last week after the country’s highest appeal court ordered a retrial. The comments in the court files triggered demonstrations in Ancona by protesters who accused the Italian justice system of misogyny.

Lawyer Cinzia Molinaro, representing the alleged victim, claims the defendants spiked the woman’s drink with drugs after the group went to a bar following an evening class. Doctors said her injuries were consistent with rape and that there was a high level of benzodiazepines in her blood.

But the reasoning document shows that the judges discarded this evidence and argued that the woman, who was 22 at the time of the alleged attack, could have “organised the exuberant evening” herself.

They noted that one of the defendents had said he “didn’t even like the girl, to the point of having stored her number in his phone under the nickname ‘Viking’, an allusion to anything but a feminine figure, rather a masculine one”. The judges added: “The photograph present in her file would appear to confirm this.”

The case will be reheard by a court in Perugia. The alleged victim has moved back to Peru after being ostracised by the community in Ancona because she reported the men, Molinaro said.

According to data from Istat, Italy’s national institute of statistics, 43.6% of Italian women between the ages of 14 and 65 will be a victim of sexual harassment at some point in their life. 

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