More than 2,000 Italian women – mothers and daughters, politicians, artists and others – have signed an online petition telling Premier Silvio Berlusconi that not all women in Italy are prostitutes or showgirls, in response to his encounters with a teenage Moroccan girl.
The campaign, entitled “Basta!” or “Enough!” is being co-ordinated by the leftist L’Unita newspaper, which is close to Italy’s centre-left opposition.
Prosecutors have placed Mr Berlusconi and three associates under investigation, alleging he paid for sex with the 17-year-old girl and used his office to cover it up. Prosecutors have said Mr Berlusconi had sex with several prostitutes during parties at his Milan estate.
The 74-year-old premier has gone on a campaign to refute the accusations, taping two video messages and an audio monologue in recent days in which he denounced the prosecutors as politically driven.
The teenager, nicknamed Ruby, has begun a media blitz of her own to deny they ever had sex.
Italy’s opposition leaders have demanded again that Mr Berlusconi resign and there is talk among his allies of calling early elections. But the premier has insisted he is not going anywhere and would gladly testify in court – as long as the judges were impartial.
On Thursday, under a headline “The Women’s Revolt”, L’Unita published what it said was a partial list of 2,000 Italian women who had signed its campaign to tell Mr Berlusconi they had had enough of his antics.
“There are other women,” the paper wrote in an editorial, listing the names of prominent union leaders, opposition politicians, actresses, journalists and citing ordinary Italian mothers and daughters. “There are women who don’t consider it a victory to go into a powerful man’s home and come out having earned what a normal (person) earns with seven months of work.”
The campaign is similar to the “I’m not at your disposal” campaign launched last year by left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper as another sex scandal swirled around Mr Berlusconi.
It was sparked after the premier insulted the looks of a middle-aged, matronly opposition politician, Rosy Bindi, who shot back: “I’m not one of the women at your disposal.”