September 29, 2016
Italian judge metes out justice with feminist reading list
by Taylor Sperry
In Rome, a thirty-five-year-old man who was convicted of paying an underage girl for sex has been ordered to buy thirty feminist books… for the girl to read.
Rachael Pells reports for the Independent that the judge, Paola Di Nicola, “hoped the books would help the 15-year-old girl to understand the damage that had been done to her as a woman, instilling feminist values.”
The daily paper Corriere della Serra said “the judge favored a remedy that would help the young girl,” but as edifying as the works of Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, and Anne Frank might be, this sounds an awful lot like victim shaming. In an earlier trial—the girl was involved in a child prostitution ring that has been under investigation for three years—a judge called the girls “children who got carried away with the debauchery, without restraint, so they could easily earn money.”
But Adriana Cavarero, whose book Notwithstanding Plato was included on the judge’s list, suggested “it would have been better if the criminal had been ordered to read the literature instead” on top of his two year prison sentence.
Cavarero’s reaction is consistent with a trend emerging worldwide. For the Christian Science Monitor, Husna Haq reports that judges in the United States and Canada have started adding reading requirements to their sentences; in Iran, criminals are ordered to buy and read five books each; in Brazil and Italy, inmates can reduce jail time by reading; and initiatives like “Changing Lives Through Literature” are offering young or petty criminals a rehabilitation reading program as an alternative to jail time.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.