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The New Italian Government Poses A Human Rights Challenge

Governing for All Means Protecting Everyone’s Human Rights

Election posters of Fratelli d'Italia, Lega con Salvini and Forza Italia are seen on the streets ahead of election day in Rome, Italy, on September 16, 2022. © 2022 Elisa Gestri/AP Images

Italy is set to have a new right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party following last weekend’s general elections. While Meloni has promised to “govern for everyone,” her party’s campaign and political platform give reason to be concerned that the new government may not embrace that governing for all means ensuring all people living in Italy enjoy equal protection of their basic human rights.

Meloni has used anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially against those she insinuates do not "integrate better", sending a chilling message not just to immigrants, but also Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities. She has called civil society groups rescuing people in the Mediterranean Sea “traffickers” and proposed a naval blockade to unlawfully push back boats carrying people fleeing persecution, rights abuses, and hardship. The United Nations found that migrants returned to Libya, for example, face arbitrary detention, torture, and other abuses that likely amount to crimes against humanity.

The party’s platform also proposes removing asylum seekers who do make it to Italy to countries outside the European Union for processing, despite the well-documented role of these policies in causing severe human rights abuse.

Women’s rights groups are also worried about protecting reproductive rights given Meloni’s anti-choice declarations during the campaign and the party’s emphasis on “prevention” of legal terminations of pregnancy and increasing the Italian birth rate. Meloni’s party has undermined legally-protected access to abortion for women while in power in Italy’s Abruzzo and Marche regions since 2020.

During the campaign, Meloni also invoked the old Fascist-era slogan, “God, motherland, and family” to attack what she describes as the LGBT “lobby.” In addition to voicing opposition to same sex marriage and adoptions by gay couples, Meloni called for a ban on “sex education” in school programs and for LGBT families not to be featured in children’s cartoons. In 2021, the Brothers of Italy opposed parliament proposals to extend hate crime laws to include bias based on sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

If Meloni truly intends to govern “for everyone,” her coalition cannot pick which groups deserve protection and which do not. The new government has an obligation to protect the rights of everyone in society.

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