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Thursday, 25 January, 2001, 17:43 GMT
Italian court allows bottom patting

Italy's highest appeals court has ruled that a pat on the bottom is not sexual harassment, provided that it is "isolated and impulsive".

The Court of Cassation supported a decision overturning an earlier guilty verdict by a lower court against a public health agency manager accused by a female employee.

If 10 different men each give us one single pat on the bottom, should we go home happy?

Forzo Italia deputy Cristina Matranga
The woman also accused the manager of threatening to damage her career if she reported the incident, which occurred in 1994 in northern Italy.

"The truth is that woman had career expectations that I did not favour," the unidentified defendant was quoted as saying in the newspaper, Corriere della Sera. "It was her little revenge."

The man was originally fined $3,800 and given an 18-month prison sentence.

But the Court of Cassation said it had found no evidence that the man had intended "an act of libido".

Alessandra Mussolini
Alessandra Mussolini: "a new humiliation"
The decision prompted a protest by the granddaughter of the late fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Rightist National Alliance deputy Alessandra Mussolini called the ruling "a new shame and a new humiliation for women."

"If 10 different men each give us one single pat on the bottom, should we go home happy?" asked Cristina Matranga, a deputy with the conservative Forza Italia party.

'No rape in jeans'

The court, which has the final say on all appeals except those related to the constitution, has drawn criticism in the past for its alleged sexism.

It threw out a sexual harrassment case in 1997, maintaining that the defendent was in love with his victim and was "just being gallant" by kissing her.

And it caused a storm in 1999 when it ruled that a woman wearing tight jeans could not be raped.

It said that the woman would have had to help get the jeans off, and this was tantamount to consenting to sex.

Feminists responded by calling a "skirt strike", insisting they would wear jeans until the decision was changed.

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See also:

15 Dec 00 | Education
Gap year students 'sexually harassed'
11 May 00 | Americas
Female general wins harassment claim
31 Mar 00 | Americas
US general 'sexually harassed'
10 Apr 99 | Europe
Italy bans back-seat sex
11 Feb 99 | Europe
Women in jeans 'cannot be raped'
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