Italy is heading for prime minister, but not all women are happy about it

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  • Helen Dehnes

    Italy reporter

  • Helen Dehnes

    Italy reporter

“I think Italy is ready, more than it thinks itself,” Giorgia Meloni told a British journalist two years ago who asked if she could become prime minister. The words of the radical right-wing politician turned out to be prophetic. Opinion polls suggest her far-right party Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy) is almost certain to become the largest party in Sunday’s election.

puts melone in first place for prime minister. Italy will probably have a woman at the head of government for the first time. In a country that is still largely male-dominated, that would be a major disruption. But since Meloni is also very conservative, not all women are happy with her progress.

Women should fight harder

Joanna Dinolfo, 50, coming out: She’s going to vote for Meloni on Sunday. “Political choices have been made in recent years that have not helped our country,” she says. “We have to make room for a party that is not in the government, but has been in the opposition for a long time.”

The fact that Meloni is a woman definitely plays a role in Dinolvo. She worked by herself for years to get her current job, in the male-dominated Italian Football Association. “We women have to struggle to finish in the same places as men. But when you get there, it shows that you are stronger and more prepared than the man.”

She admires Meloni’s persistence, and her political opponents often criticize her for her conservative views. “When you have to take a lot of attacks, you have to be very determined to become prime minister.”

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As enthusiastic as Dinolvo is, many progressive left-wing women fear it. Laura Palazini, a 41-year-old architect, has been waiting her whole life for prime minister. “But that’s not what we really need,” she sighs. “Melone is a woman who opposes women. She is not on our side.”

Worst of all is Meloni’s stance on abortion. Abortion is allowed in Italy in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. The politician does not want the opposite, but wants to give women the “right not to have an abortion.” She wants to support women who want to have a baby, but are still interrupting their pregnancies because, for example, they can’t pay for the upbringing.

“I don’t think the problem of the low birth rate can be solved by letting in immigrants, as the left parties think,” she said at a campaign rally in Milan. “I want our families to have children. I don’t want women to have to choose between motherhood and work.”

Palazini fears that this is not a change in the law, but that it ultimately means that you are making abortion more difficult. “In practice, it is really inaccessible, because in some areas as many as eighty percent of doctors refuse to perform an abortion. You can terminate a pregnancy for a thousand reasons, but it is never an easy decision. For example, because you have to fill out an insulting government questionnaire. Women have to decide what their bodies are for themselves.”

“Years Back”

Furthermore, Palazzini is concerned about LGBTQ rights. Meloni believes that same-sex couples can live together legally, but marrying or adopting a child together is very difficult for her. Palazini fears, “Melone’s ideals are taking us back in time.”

Meloni’s deputy Joanna Dinolfo doesn’t believe it. “It’s inconceivable that Meloni would reverse the laws. Of course it expresses itself about certain values, and I’m the first to ask questions about that. I usually don’t have the answer right away either. But in the end you have to vote for someone.”

She says the idea that Meloni would make abortion more difficult in the long run, is taken out of context. “Raising a child in Italy today isn’t really easy. When you’re alone, sometimes you can’t do anything but interrupt the pregnancy. The possibility of choice at that time seemed like a good thing.”

Like many voters of the Fratelli d’Italia movement, Dinolfo is less conservative than the party itself. Her voice is essentially a protest voice against the political establishment. She believes that “in a democratic country, I think we should embrace this diversity.” “If we go back to the left after this then so be it. But I hope good choices are made in the meantime.”

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