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Italian government's anti-LGBT rhetoric blamed for brutal beating of trans woman in Milan

A man carries a boy on his shoulders during a demonstration by gay rights and civil society groups in Milan on March 18, 2023.
A man carries a boy on his shoulders during a demonstration by gay rights and civil society groups in Milan on March 18, 2023. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Giulia Carbonaro
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Many claim the assault on a Brazilian transgender woman in Milan is yet another case of discrimination - set against the anti-LGBT+ rhetoric of Meloni's government.

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A video of a trans woman in Milan being pepper sprayed, kicked and beaten by three police officers has caused a stir in Italy, with many drawing a link between the incident and growing transphobic rhetoric in the country.

The footage shows officers repeatedly hitting the woman, a Brazilian national, as she sits on the ground without showing any kind of resistance. 

She raises up her arms and takes off her glasses. Then receives one last blow to the head before an officer finally handcuffs her.

The facts surrounding the incident, which happened on Wednesday, are still vague. 

Italian media report it started when concerned parents called the police, saying the woman was exhibiting odd and potentially threatening behaviour in front of a school. However, authorities claim she was not harassing the children. 

Euronews cannot verify at this stage what happened. 

The clip - shared widely on social media - has sparked widespread condemnation in Italy, with some setting the beating of the trans woman against the anti-LGBT stance of Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government.

A growing hostile environment?

Some claim Meloni - who ran for election in 2022 with the slogan “I’m a woman, I’m a mother, I’m Christian” - has helped create a hostile space for Italy's LGBT+ community. 

She has repeatedly attacked what she called the “LGBT lobby” since taking office, claiming gender differences are “rooted in the body and that this is an incontrovertible fact”. 

Meloni previously said the only real family is the traditional nuclear one, made up of a man and a woman.

In March, Meloni said she was “concerned” about the impact of what she called “genderism” on women’s rights, calling women “the first victims” of “gender ideology”. 

Yet, the Italian Prime Minister's remarks are disputed by others. 

“Criminalising & inciting violence against ‘transgenderism’ has lethal consequences,” Italian-Israeli journalist Rula Jebreal wrote on Twitter, regarding Wednesday's incident involving the trans woman in Milan. 

“The so-called ‘gender ideology’ is used to justify Gov’t discrimination.”

“This kind of violence is neither legal nor moral…Italy’s far-right government propaganda targets and criminalises trans & LGBTQ… hate and violence are main consequences,” she added. 

Following the incident in Milan, Italian senator and activist Ilaria Cucchi called on Meloni's government to avoid legitimising "oppression of the most vulnerable categories" by law enforcement.

Cucchi is the sister of Stefano Cucchi, who was beaten to death by Carabinieri police officers while jailed in 2009. It took ten years for Cucchi's family to get justice. 

After an initial trial in 2013 found officers not guilty, in November 2019, two were found guilty of murdering Cucchi and were given 12 years in prison.

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Cucchi said that the violence of the police officers in Milan "could not be justified" in a country that follows the rule of law.

'Racial and sexual profiling'

Others also interpreted the incident as a case of abuse against foreigners and trans people in Italy.

Italian journalist Luigi Mastrodonato said the incident reflected “racial and sexual profiling” among police forces in Italy. 

“We talk about it in the US, but we do so much less here,” he said. 

According to a 2019 study by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 70% of respondents of African descent who were stopped by police in Italy believed they were racially profiled. 

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That means they claim they were stopped because of the colour of their skin, nationality or language. 

Trans people also complain of mistreatment.

Talking to an Italian newspaper Domani last year, Pia Covre, founder of a nonprofit group advocating for the rights of sex workers, said trans people in Italy are “profoundly” persecuted by law enforcement - especially when they engage in sex work.

“Trans sex workers, for example, are constantly identified, stopped, and removed multiple times a day,” she said. “The situation gets worse when they’re foreigners.”

Will there be consequences for the police officers?

The incident in Milan has sparked mixed reactions among Italians, with some calling the police’s behaviour unacceptable. 

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Others have stood by the officers, claiming the woman was threatening the children.

In the midst of an incendiary debate, local authorities are trading a delicate line. 

Milan’s police and city authorities said they were verifying what happened before deciding measures to take against the officers involved.

Milan’s mayor Giuseppe Sala commented on the incident saying it was “really serious” and “certainly not a great image”. 

But he added police needed to investigate what happened before deciding on a future course of action.

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