The actor Sophia Loren has begun legal action to stop a poster campaign launched by Italy’s former neo-fascists that implicitly links foreigners and rapists.
A lawyer for Loren said she was ready to take “any necessary action” to prevent the National Alliance, the second biggest party in Silvio Berlusconi’s government, from using a still from one of her films on posters that have begun to appear in Rome. The party’s campaign follows outrage over a string of recent sex attacks.
The lawyer’s statement said the actor shared the public’s concern, but was “not willing to lend her image to an individual political party or group”.
The posters show Loren in her Oscar-winning role in the wartime drama Two Women, Vittorio De Sica’s 1961 film in which the actor and her screen daughter are raped by Moroccan soldiers after taking refuge in a church. The film, and the Alberto Moravia novel La Ciociara on which it was based, reflected events still seared into Italy’s folk consciousness.
In 1997 a court decision opened the way for damages to be paid to an estimated 1,000 women raped by allied troops in the Ciociara area south of Rome in the spring of 1944.
The rapes were mostly committed by Moroccan irregulars belonging to an 111,000-strong French expeditionary force.
Blazoned across the posters are the words “mai piu” (never again).
The campaign followed the stabbing of an Italian barman, allegedly by an Albanian, and the rape of two teenagers. The suspects in one of the rapes are Moroccans.
The stabbing led to mob protests by skinheads and rightwing soccer gangs, and an attack on Albanian immigrants.
This month, a minister in Mr Berlusconi’s government called for a law to castrate rapists.
Loren’s intervention was all the more surprising as her family has always been regarded as close to the neo-fascist movement.
Her sister was married to a son of Benito Mussolini while her niece, Alessandra Mussolini, was formerly a high-profile member of the National Alliance.
But Ms Mussolini resigned from the party two years ago, and National Alliance sources said yesterday they suspected the rift had had an influence on her aunt’s decision.
The Northern League, another government party, has presented a draft bill to make rape punishable with chemical or surgical castration and increased jail terms.
The National Alliance’s poster campaign appears to be a response to that initiative; it calls not for new legislation, but the strict application of existing laws. Mr Berlusconi’s interior minister, Giuseppe Pisanu, has said Italy’s immigration policy should remain unchanged “even when faced with the killing . . . and rapes”.