Protests took place over the weekend in Verona, Italy, as international far-right politicians, conservative activists, and religious leaders held family values conference
Over the weekend, in Verona – Italy’s city dubbed the city of love, was the meeting spot for far-right politicians, conservative activists, and religious leaders from all over the world that have united in hate under a “pro-family” umbrella according to opponents and protesters.
While the US-based World Congress of Families conference took place, outside there was a protest where police had to be deployed, at the same time there was a counter-demonstration by groups supporting the conference’s aims.
Even though over the past years the congress was held in former Soviet states, this weekend, the three-day conference’s 13th edition was held in Verona, Italy and was funded by the local council and backed by Italy’s deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini. Which is the leader of the anti-immigrant and xenophobic far-right League party, an important part of Italy’s current populist coalition government. He stated on Saturday during the conference:
“The feminists that speak of women’s rights and are the first to pretend to not see what is the first, only and major, real danger in 2019 for rights, social achievements, freedom to work, study, speak, dress as you like – and it’s not the World Family Congress – it’s Islamic extremism, a culture where the woman’s value is less than zero. The woman gets covered with a burka, the woman doesn’t have to leave the house, the woman shouldn’t wear a mini-skirt, and if she dressed too western, thinks too western or becomes too western, (they) beat her up. Not from the dangerous extremists of the Family Congress.”
The protest was formed by groups campaigning for women’s and LGBT rights, they were opposing the World Congress of Families whose self-declared goal is to restore what it calls the “natural family order”. Demonstrator Maddalena Saccone said: “There is talk of taking back the freedom of abortion, divorce and family law. These are struggles that were thought to have already been won.”
The numbers of protesters was around 30,000, according to police, and where wearing fuchsia clothing carrying colorful banners and chanting a Romeo and Juliet analogy seen through feminist eyes: “They kill us in the home, in the streets, in the workplace – Verona is a city for feminism so now we say ‘Giuletta, don’t fear because life is too beautiful, don’t wait for a testicolo (a slang word, referring to an idiotic man) on the balcony.”
The protesters are not the only ones against the hate promoted by the World Family Congress, Neil Datta, Secretary of the European Parliament Forum on Population and Development stated:
“They frame it as being in favor of family and life and religious freedom, but really what they mean is simply different ways of restricting people’s human rights. Instead of talking about religious values, they’ve taken the same ideas but have put it through a secularizing washing machine so it comes out sounding like modern human rights language. But it’s the same basic idea.”