The infamous Fertility Day campaign, promoted by the Italian Minister of Health, was followed by strong reactions from various sides of Italian society. The Italian LGBT community was one of them. They didn’t fail to speak up against the homophobic message provided not only by the chosen images, but also by the content itself.
A racist, sexist and homophobic campaign
The immediate reaction that followed the campaign's release on its website and on social media was disbelief. Initially, we all thought it was a meme, a joke, maybe a bad one, but a joke nonetheless. Something so profoundly sexist, racist and homophobic couldn’t come from a person like the Minister of Health. Sadly, we were wrong.
When the campaign’s images went public, it was like Italy was suddenly thrown back to its darkest era of fascism. Women were being portrayed in this campaign as objects, with no other purpose than procreation. Moreover, said procreation was obviously meant to happen within the so-called "traditional family." The message was very heteronormative in this respect. All of this was supported by the image of straight couples, who were all white and tall, had blonde hair and light-coloured eyes. The image was actually previously used for a toothpaste advertisement.
Due to political opportunism, thousands of families cannot be properly recognized
As the president of Famiglie Arcobaleno (“rainbow families”, the Italian association of LGBT parents) recalled in an article published by lgbtnewsitalia.it, the huge clash inside the Italian Parliament during the debate on the Civil Unions Law is still a hot topic.
On the 20th of May 2016, Italy, for the first time in its history, recognized same-sex civil unions. The law passed after a 30 year-long debate came to a head in the final months leading up to the recognition of same-sex civil unions. The political party of the Minister of Health, Beatrice Lorenzin, insisted to recall the importance of concepts such as “natural law” and “natural order” in order to ostracize, or at least impoverish, the rights contained in the law. Furthermore, one of the major controversies regarding this law, and one of the things that was discussed the most, regarded LGBT families and their children, and in particular the possibility of stepchild adoption.
The lives of LGBT families still remain an inconvenient topic within Italian mainstream media
Stepchild adoption would have allowed for the recognition of the second parent in a same-sex couple not only to be permanently legally tied to their children, but also to protect the children in case the biological parent passed away. This institution, which was formerly contained in article five of the Civil Union Law, was erased and never approved, due to political opportunism of Lorenzin's party. In fact, the political pressure applied by the People of Freedom (Pdl), the party of Berlusconi and the Minister of Health, made other MPs change their minds as well. As a result, thousands of families cannot be properly recognized: the children born in an LGBT family have only one legal parent, instead of two.
Only children from heterosexual parents
In the light of Italy's most recent political events, the Fertility Day campaign, that aims to encourage new pregnancies, can be seen as being very offensive towards the thousands of LGBT families and their children. Even though these families exist in Italian society, they have been left without any legal protection and recognition due to the erasure of article five of the Civil Union Law. The Fertility Day campaign has only added to the outrage felt by people in the Italian LGBT community. According to this campaign, children are only welcome if born to heterosexual parents. The message is clear and health has nothing to do with it, because the fertility of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals is left out of the picture. According to this campaign, their fertility isn't relevant to the State.
Due to the amount of criticism they attracted, the images were taken down from the official website and were no longer used for the campaign. However, the homophobic content of the campaign remained unaddressed. This shows that the lives of LGBT families, their needs and recognising them as a valuable part of Italian society still remains an inconvenient topic, which is apparently not suitable for mainstream media.
A step in the right direction
However, there are some positive signals that go in the opposite direction. The Italian Minister of Defense, Roberta Pinotti, recently declared to Polis Aperta (LGBT police forces association) that she celebrated the Civil Union of two women in Genova on the 10th of October 2016, marking a milestone in Italian political history. Hopefully this will encourage not only more LGBT people in the army to come out, but also to overcome the persistent homophobia in some political areas. The historical gesture made by Minister Pinotti gives Italian women the hope that one day they will be perceived as valuable human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation, and not just as vehicles for reproduction.