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The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2014 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well.

Chiara Favilli

Country context

Discrimination on the grounds specified by the Directives is still a minor subject in Italian legal and political debate. As a result of the low priority attributed to discrimination by social and political actors, limited empirical research on the dimension of the actual problems has been carried out compared to the major European countries. It is therefore difficult to provide correct estimates of the frequency and magnitude of discrimination in all fields and media reports are often very inaccurate.

Main principles and definitions

The 2003 Decrees forbid direct as well as indirect discrimination with a wording that is based on that of the Directives, for all the grounds concerned. Harassment is also defined and prohibited. Instructions to discriminate are explicitly considered as a form of discrimination. Victimisation is provided with the same level of judicial protection as other forms of discrimination, and is an element to be taken into consideration in the assessment of the amount of damages.

Enforcing the law

The action against discrimination is based on a claim filed by the victim to a court. In 2011 a procedural change was made, enhancing coordination between the various laws enacted over recent years. Article 28 of Legislative Decree 150/2011 revoked the special procedure for anti-discrimination cases provided by Legislative Decree 286/1998 on Immigration, which has been replaced by the general fast track procedure provided by Article 702-bis of the Civil Procedural Code.

Main legislation

A general clause on equality and ban of discrimination is contained in the 1948 Constitution. While clearly forbidding any discriminatory legislation, it is a matter of legal debate whether the constitutional principle has direct effect, i.e. if it is sufficient ground for an action by an individual who has faced discrimination. This has never been clearly tested in court. Moreover Act 300/1970, the Workers’ Act, has a provision banning discriminatory acts against workers and one specific legal tool was provided for by criminal legislation on ‘hate speech’ which included references to discriminatory acts of a different nature.

Material scope

The scope of application includes the same fields as listed in the Directives, and rules apply to both the private and public sectors. Unlike the 1998 Decree, discrimination on the ground of nationality is explicitly excluded from the scope of application of the Decree 215/2003, as are all legal rules concerning the status of third country nationals and stateless persons. In this regard, both Decrees mention not only rules on entry and residence but also on access to employment, assistance and welfare. A 2006 act extends, as mentioned above, protection for discrimination on the ground of disability beyond the field of employment.

Equality bodies

The equality body was originally created only to deal with race and ethnic origin and is named the National Office for Opposition to Racial Discrimination - UNAR. It is not an independent body since it was established as a section of the Department for Equal Opportunities of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, which previously dealt exclusively with gender discrimination. UNAR makes use of staff from other government departments, including judges and state attorneys, as well as external experts and advisers.

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