Bodily Integrity of Italian women: exploring freedom of choice

Tommaso, Di, and J Dagsvik (2009). "Bodily Integrity of Italian women: exploring freedom of choice" Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.

Italy has a very low position in terms of gender inequality respect to many other industrialised countries (Human Development Report 2008). It has position 17 in terms of the Gender Related Development Index and position 21 in terms of Gender Empowerment Measure. According to the World Economic Forum (2008), Italy is ranked number 67 in the Global Gender Gap Index. While there are great difficulties in making international comparison, these indexes provide evidence for a high gender inequality in Italy. Economic studies on Italian gender inequality have until now focussed on wage differentials, lack of women’s participation to the labour market, different distribution of un-paid work within the households. In this paper, we measure an aspect of inequality utilising the capability approach focussing on the capability of bodily integrity. In Nussbaum’s definition: “Being able to move freely from place to place; to be secure against violent assault, including sexual assault, marital rape and domestic violence; having opportunities for sexual satisfaction and for choice in matters of reproduction.” (Nussbaum, 1999, pg 41). In this paper, we explore this capability for Italian women. We would ideally need information on some functionings and on women freedoms. Not only, we need to take into consideration a list of functionings (if the woman has suffered from domestic violence, of which type, rape, etc) but also if the woman feel free to leave the house whenever she wants, if she feels safe to move freely, if she can decide about contraception. This set of functionings and indicators of capabilities depend on personal characteristics: for instance, a woman may be more restricted in terms of moving from place to place because of religious or social constraints, not working women may have less means to exit a violent relationship, etc; Moreover, they depend on external characteristics: for example, an individual could live in a more dangerous district than another; law enforcement could be different across regions, etc.

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