by Confronti Editorial Staff
The Zan bill, as it is commonly called by Italian newspapers, is a bill proposed by Alessandro Zan, deputy of the Democratic Party (Center-Left). In Italy, a bill (DDL) is the initial stage of a law proposed by one or more members of parliament. The bill contains a number of articles that need to be discussed, one at a time, by the different branches of parliament and then undergo various approval steps before becoming (or not) a law.
In May 2016, Italy recognized homosexual unions, a crucial moment, to be considered the first step on the long path towards more civil rights and greater freedom. Since then, however, progress in this direction had mostly stagnated.
Zan proposed in May 2018 a new law that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity a criminal offense in Italy, in response to what he called an “exponential increase in the number and severity of acts of violence against of gay and transgender people.”
The Zan bill therefore aims to extend the scope of the existing legislation on hate crimes to attacks and behaviors due to sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
THE AMENDMENT PROPOSALS
The main changes to the existing legislation required by the Zan bill are, mainly:
- The addition of discrimination based “on sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity or disability” to articles 604-bis and 604-ter of the criminal code, which punish incitement to violence and discrimination on “racial, ethnic, religious or nationality” grounds.
- An amendment to Article 90-quater of the Code of Criminal Procedure which defines the “particularly vulnerable condition of the offended person.” The Zan bill provides for the addition of the words “based on sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity.” Currently the article only specifies measures against racial hatred.
- An amendment to the legislative decree of 9 July 2003, number 215, on the equal treatment of individuals regardless of skin color or ethnic origin. The bill adds some measures to prevent and combat discrimination related to sexual orientation and gender identity.
THE ARTICLES OF THE DDL
The Zan bill consists of 10 articles, of which the first six concern the criminal field and the other four introduce some positive action to prevent and combat discrimination.
Article 1 introduces and defines the terms sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, as suggested by the Constitutional Affairs Commission, to avoid any hypothesis of unconstitutionality of the law.
Article 2 places sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability among the motives of hate crimes (article 604-bis of the criminal code), in order to safeguard respect for human dignity and the principle of equality. In addition, a fine of up to 6 thousand euros or imprisonment of up to one year and 6 months is envisaged for those who instigate acts of discrimination based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Anyone who instigates or commits violent acts, for the same reasons, is imprisoned from 6 months up to 4 years.
Article 3 establishes as an aggravating circumstance the committing of crimes based on the sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of the victim (amendment of article 604-ter of the criminal code).
Article 4 is dedicated to safeguarding freedom of opinion and choice, to protect freedom of speech and states “the free expression of beliefs or opinions as well as legitimate conduct attributable to pluralism of ideas or freedom of choices are reserved, provided that they are not suitable for determining the concrete danger of committing discriminatory or violent acts “. That is, freedom of expression must never cross over into incitement to hatred and violence.
Article 5 mainly concerns some specifics with respect to the penalties provided for in Articles 604-bis and 604-ter.
Article 6 reports the amendments to Article 90-quater of the Code of Criminal Procedure which defines the “particularly vulnerable condition of the injured person” and the recognition of women and LGBTQ+ people as “vulnerable” people and therefore, potentially victims.
Article 7 establishes the date of May 17 as the “National day against homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia,” to promote a culture of respect and inclusion, and to counter prejudice and violence.
Article 8 instructs the National Office against Racial Discrimination to develop a national strategy for the prevention and fight against discrimination.
Article 9 establishes a fund of 4 million euros for policies relating to rights and equal opportunities, with the establishment of centers against discrimination.
Article 10 requires ISTAT to carry out, at least every three years, a survey to describe the state of discrimination and violent practices, and to serve as a basis for thinking and implementing law enforcement policies.
WHO IS FOR AND WHO IS AGAINST
The Zan DDL was voted in the Italian parliament in November 2020, where it obtained 265 votes in favor and 193 against. To be approved, the text needs a further passage in the Senate. But this is where center-right parties come into play. The political parties Fratelli d’Italia and Lega are strongly supported by some branches of the Catholic Church. These parties argue that a new law is not really necessary as there is already another law (the 1993 Marino Law) that would already offer sufficient protection.
They also claim that the Bill penalizes free speech and is offensive for the introduction of the concept of “gender identity,” which would have the aim of nullifying “natural” gender differences (male-female) and instigating biased propaganda in this sense.
In addition, the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), which represents the Roman Catholic bishops, has made its voice heard arguing that the bill would prevent the clergy from expressing their convictions or make them prosecutable for “incitement to hatred.”
In particular, on this point, through a letter of protest from its foreign minister, the Vatican affirmed that the Zan bill would violate an agreement between Italy and the Holy See which should guarantee the Catholic Church total religious freedom.
Even some groups of women, who are opposed to giving trans women the same status as those who were “female” based on their biological sex of birth, have criticized the Zan bill. The problem would be that the recognition of “gender identity” could undermine the rights of cisgender women.
Ph. © Mario Gogh