Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Italy: Update to ITA31045.E of 2 February 1999 on the treatment of gays and lesbians; treatment of individuals with human immune defiency virus (HIV) and the availability of medical treatment for those with HIV (2002-November 2004)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 10 November 2004
Citation / Document Symbol ITA43108.E
Reference 4
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Italy: Update to ITA31045.E of 2 February 1999 on the treatment of gays and lesbians; treatment of individuals with human immune defiency virus (HIV) and the availability of medical treatment for those with HIV (2002-November 2004), 10 November 2004, ITA43108.E, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to a June 2003 article on gay rights in Italy, even though public opinion has measured an increased tolerance towards homosexuality, gays, in particular, continue to draw condemnation from the Catholic Church and right-wing National Alliance party, and many face discrimination in the workplace (The Observer 8 June 2003). In addition, the news story reported that many gays still prefer to stay "closeted for life" due to the "stigma surrounding homosexuality" and the shame it brings upon family relatives (ibid.). By way of example, the news source stated that while an estimated "five million Italians are thought to be gay, only 100,000 admit it" (ibid.).

In September 2003, Human Rights Watch mentioned that some countries, including Italy, offered "some benefits to same-sex partners, or contain jurisdictions that do so" (HRW 4 Sept. 2003). However, news sources also noted that Italy is one of three remaining European Union (EU) countries that still do not recognize same-sex unions (BBC 15 Feb. 2004; St. Petersburg Times 26 Feb. 2004). Moreover, discrimination based on sexual orientation is not addressed in the constitution, and the penal code does not provide for the protection of "gays and lesbians as a group, but does include other elements like gender, race, religion" (Gay Times 20 Sept. 2004).

According to The Observer, while some cities such as Rome have openly gay public areas, the majority of municipalities do not have "openly gay neighbourhoods" due to "social pressure [to] keep most [homosexuals] underground" (8 June 2003). Gay Times further stated that Italy had a limited gay scene due to cultural factors and a steady presence of the Catholic Church (20 Sept. 2004).

In July 2003, the Observatory for the Rights of Minors, a government agency (Italy 23 Dec. 1997), struck down a proposed article within adoption legislation for the Campania region that would have allowed "aid for adoptions and assisted procreation" for both heterosexual and gay couples (AGI 12 July 2003). In its decision to intervene, the Observatory explained that "[t]he homosexual couple, from the natural point of view, isn't in balance because 'parents' means a man and a woman" (ibid.).

In October 2004, the International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe (ILGA-Europe) called on the European Parliament (EP) to refuse the appointment of Italian European Affairs minister Rocco Buttiglione to the position of Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs because of his anti-homosexual attitude (ILGA-Europe 12 Oct. 2004). Buttiglione reportedly proposed that "the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination" not include sexual orientation in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (ibid.). On 11 October 2004, the EP Civil Liberties Committee refused Buttiglione's appointment, citing that the Italian official's "private beliefs" would interfere with his work in the EP (ibid.).

In 2003 and 2004, the Italian gay advocacy movement continued its efforts to promote homosexual rights and activities, by organizing annual Gay Pride marches and pushing for legislative reform (The Observer 8 June 2003; Toronto Star 14 Feb. 2004; BBC 15 Feb. 2004). The 2003 Gay Pride march held in Bari reportedly drew some 20,000 homosexuals (The Observer 8 June 2003).

In February 2004, the national homosexual rights group Arcigay organized a Valentine's day "mass kiss-in" in the centre of Rome in order to promote the rights of same-sex couples (BBC News 15 Feb. 2004; Toronto Star 14 Feb.2004). The kiss-in reportedly attracted hundreds of gay men and "angered city officials" (ibid.). In April 2004, the Statute Commission of the Regional Council of Tuscany completed legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on "sexual tendencies" (AGI 7 Apr. 2004). The Tuscany branch of ArciGay celebrated the completion of the legal articles, stating that it had provided input for the development of this law (ibid.).

HIV treatment

Information on the treatment of individuals with HIV and the availability of medical treatment for those with HIV was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the 2004 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) (UNAIDS)/World Health Organization (WHO) Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases for Italy, only six of twenty regions in the country provide statistics on HIV (1 Sept. 2004). As of the end of 2003, there are estimated to be approximately 120,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in Italy (UNAIDS 1 Sept. 2004). In 1995, the year with the most new cases of AIDS ever reported, there were 5,500 registered cases; as of 2003, the annual rate of new cases was approximately 1,800 (ibid.). Of the 3,500 to 4,000 new cases of HIV reported yearly, 35 per cent are in females and 20 per cent are among foreigners (ibid.). As the UNAIDS report shows, though, HIV/AIDS numbers concern more than just the homosexual population:

Early on in the epidemic the main route of transmission was through injecting drug users, however in recent years new infections are predominantly transmitted sexually. Around 40 percent of new HIV infections are attributed to heterosexual sex, 35 percent to IDUs [intravenous drug users] and 20 percent to homo/bisexual sex. The rise in the incidence of heterosexual cases is mainly caused by an increase of imported cases from countries with generalised epidemics. In 1994 just under 2 percent of AIDS cases were found among foreigners whereas in 2003 around 20 percent of AIDS cases are among non-Italians.

Prevalence varies greatly by region. The major cities of Rome and Milan have the highest AIDS prevalence rates (4.9 and 4.8 AIDS cases per 100.000), followed by Genoa (4.1 AIDS cases per 100,000) and Bologna (3.7 AIDS cases per 100,000) (1 Sept. 2004).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agenzia Giornalistica Italia (AGI). 7 April 2004. "Gay Couples in Tuscany Celebrate Recognition." [Accessed 3 Nov. 2004]
_____. 12 July 2003. "Procreation For Gay Couples Denied by Minors' Rights Observatory." (Google cache) [Accessed 3 Nov. 2004]

BBC. 15 February 2004. Tamsin Smith. "Italy's Gays Pucker Up For Law Change." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2004]

Gay Times [London]. 20 September 2004. "Lesbian and Gay Italy." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2004]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 4 September 2003. "U.S.: Full Marriage Rights for Same-Sex Partners." [Accessed 4 Sept. 2003]

International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe (ILGA-Europe). 12 October 2004. "European Parliament Committee Rejects Buttiglione." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2004]

Italy. 23 December 1997. Centro Nazionale de Documentazione e Analisi per L'Infanzia e L'Adolescenza. "Italy: Law 23 December 1997, N. 451 Institution of the Parliamentarian Commission For Childhood and of the National Observatory on Childhood." [Accessed 10 Nov. 2004]

Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). 1 September 2004. Epidemiological Fact Sheet on HIV/AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. "Italy." [Accessed 3 Nov. 2004]

The Observer [London]. 8 June 2003. Sophie Arie. "Italian Gays March For Rights Against Vatican and the Law." (Google cache) [Accessed 3 Nov. 2004]

St. Petersburg Times. 26 February 2004. Susan Taylor Martin. "A Gay Marriage Ban Could Start International Debate." [Accessed 4 Nov. 2004]

Toronto Star. 14 February 2004. "Roman Gays Hoping to Score at Mass Kiss." (Google cache) [Accessed 3 Nov. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet: Amnesty International, Country Reports 2003, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Huridocs, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Wockner News, World News Connection.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld