One kind of festa we’ve enjoyed in the past, especially in the Cascine Park of Florence, is the ‘Festa dell’Unità’. This is an event organised by one of Italy’s multifarious political parties which, besides providing food and drink and some music and dancing events, is also an arena for often important political debates.
After revisiting the delightful ‘Sagra dell crisciolette’ at Cascio – described in my post at https://longoio2.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/whats-a-criscioletta/ we made a brief detour to Gallicano’s ‘ Festa dell’unità’, organised by Prime Minister Renzo’s party, the SD (social-democrats).
Italian politics is a maelstrom of ever-changing allegiances, kaleidoscopic alliances and confusionary tactics. To add to the muddle is the presence of a religious state – the Vatican City – in the middle of a nation nominally secular constitutionally but permeated by centuries of inbred-Catholicism.
Only this year the ‘legge Cirinnà’ finally sanctioned civil unions between same-sex couples. The end of years of crusades against laws which bound Italian society to a quasi-feudal morality (for example, divorce was only introduced in 1970 and any kind of abortion was declared criminal until 1975) the legge Cirinnà was only pushed through to avoid Italy being condemned for abuse of civil rights by the European Union which threatened sanctions against it.
Despite passing through the ‘legge Cirinnà’ only in June this year there are still shortcomings in Italy compared with other western countries. First, the new law doesn’t allow adoption between same-sex couples. Second, it doesn’t permit in-vitro fertilization for children (as in the case of Elton John) so the chances of same-sex couples having proxy-children is nil. There has been a huge debate on this with violent clashes between the country’s secular and religious factions, with the condemnatory phrase ‘uterus for-hire’ and others of equally vociferously emotional tones.
In the middle of this moral-political-religious clash stands one remarkable woman, Monica Cirinnà, who managed to be the leading influence in getting the law, named after her, through the complexities, hurdles and mayhem of Italian politics.
It was this very woman who spoke and debated at Gallicano’s ‘Festa dell’unità’ yesterday evening. We reached the venue quite by chance but I wouldn’t have missed hearing this extraordinary woman speak. And one has to be an amazing woman to be able to survive in the still macho-dominated Italian political scene where females are subject continuously to vulgar sexist remarks: most recently even addressed to the leader of the chamber of deputies herself, Laura Boldrini.
Something about Monica. Born in Rome she graduated in Law at that city’s Sapienza University. She entered politics in 1993 when she was elected to the green party representing the capital’s council three times. In 2008 Monica joined the Social Democratic party. Cirinnà is married to former senator Esterino Montino.
In 2013 Cirinnà was elected to the Italian senate where she fought against dinosaur-sized odds (including such powerful people as Vatican city cardinals and highly traditional, yet supposedly left-wing politicians) to finally enable Italy’s first law to give equal civil union rights to same-sex people to be passed through parliament. Indeed in 2016 Monica was voted by Gay.it Italy’s foremost ‘Gay rights champion.’
Until the Cirinnà law came into being no mayor in Italy could perform a civil union between same-sex people. I remember that some years ago I was approached by the now-mayor of Bagni di Lucca to act as a ceremony facilitator between two girls who’d been united by civil law in the UK. It was a lovely occasion in Pian di Fiume and my ritualistic role was much appreciated. Then, the mayor could just look on. Now he can fully act his part in sealing both heterosexual and same-sex marriages.
I was bold enough to take the platform and talk about my experience there and was applauded for what I related.
Monica Cirinnà spoke forcefully and passionately about her experiences in the situation of same sex civil unions. She said there was a lot more to do but at least the unions had been officially sanctioned by law. Monica also stated that a true watershed had been passed between church and state. She bluntly and courteously remembered remarking to a leading figure of the Catholic C.E.I. – ‘your job is to look after the spiritual and religious dimension of Italian society, ours is to safeguard its secular and civil rights’.Cirinnà is married to former senator Esterino Montino.
Clearly the debate will go on and on. So many Italians are used to the traditional family of mum and dad plus children that it will take years for them to accept that the overriding feature of any union is love. Children need to be loved, protected and guided. They do not need to be discriminated against because they come from one-parent families or same-sex-partner families. Furthermore, the terrible spate of feminicide that has been occurring in Italy, where every three days one woman is killed by a partner or husband who thinks she is his possession and just won’t let go of her, is atrocious. Even in relatively civilised Lucca there has been a woman, Vania Vannucchi, who recently had petrol poured over her by ex-husband Pasquale Russo and set on fire. Vania was rushed to Pisa hospital with 93% burns over her body. Despite every care she died after three days of unimaginable agony this 3rd of August..
Heterosexual civil unions are some form of guarantee that children and spouses will be afforded the respect, protections and rights they deserve. It is good for Italy that the Cirinnà law has finally been passed to afford the same rights for same-sex civil unions on 5th June this year. And about time too!
PS Monica Cirinnà is also a campaigner for women’s rights and a firm believer in rights for animals too.