Italy is a country made up of 20 regions, each with its own traditions and history. The main
differences, in terms of working conditions, job opportunities and the quality of public
services (education, healthcare and transport), are between the northern and southern
regions. The family is at the centre of the structure of society and of social welfare, with
extended families still living together, in particular in the south. Organised crime,
corruption, the black economy and tax evasion are structural scourges that still hinder the
full development of the country, with the complicity of a political class that has never been
able to tackle them adequately.
Some relevant data on the Italian population are provided by Istat, the Istituto nazionale
di statistica (Italian National Institute for Statistics). According to the most recent surveys,
in a population of 60 391 000,1 there are about 2 500 000 people with disabi lities, which
represents about 4.2 % of the total population.2 Pupils with disability number 150 000, or
3 % of the total number of students. One million people identify themselves as homosexual
or bisexual.3 There are 5 234 000 foreign nationals, but no data are available on the racial
or ethnic origin of the population. With regard to religion, 76.5 % of the total population
have been baptised into the Catholic Chur ch, although only around 25 % declare
themselves to be practising Catholics. Muslims represent around 2 % of the population;
the same percentage as Orthodox Christians. The Jewish community has a historical
presence in Italy and has about 35 000 members.
The majority of judgments in the field of discrimination law are still based on the ground
of nationality, although the application of anti-discrimination law on other grounds is
increasing. However, discrimination law is still not perceived as a specific sector of the law,
and is ignored even in databases that are commonly used by judges and lawyers. Both on
political platforms and in the social sciences, discrimination is still a low-priority issue. The
marginalisation of the activity of the Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali (UNA R)
(National Office Against Racial Discrimination), an office of the Government that is
supposed to be the equality body, is both a cause and an effect of this lack of awareness,
at least among politicians.
Surveys about perceptions of discrimination are very rare, so it is difficult to provide
accurate estimates of the frequency and magnitude of discrimination in all fields – and
media reports are often very inaccurate. Certainly, hostile attitudes can be observed
towards different groups of people, mostly in relation to the recent waves of immigration
and asylum seekers. Moreover, hostility against the Roma is becoming an increasingly
heated issue, with several politicians openly supporting policies of segregation in housing
and education. School drop-out rates among Roma pupils are an issue of serious concern.
They may be a direct consequence of housing segregation, with camps based far from
schools and sudden transfers of people from one camp to another.
Racial and ethnic discrimination often overlaps with discrimination on the ground of religion
and belief, mostly in the case of ethno-religious groups such as ‘Arabs’ and ‘Muslims’, when
discrimination occurs without any distinction being made between the two terms.4 The
large influx of refugees and asylum applicants has worsened the general picture still
further. With regard to religious minorities not linked to immigration (Jews, Waldensians
1 Istat statistics for 2019, available at: http://dati.istat.it/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=DCIS_POPRES1.
2 Istat (2010), Disability in Italy (La disabilità in Italia), available at:
3 Istat (2012), The homosexual population in Italian society – 2011 (La popolazione omosessuale nella
società italiana – 2011), available at: http://www.istat.it/it/files/2012/05/report-omofobia_6giugno.pdf.
4 See the extensive and up-to-date press record on hate speech edited by Associazione Carta di Roma,
available at: http://www.cartadiroma.org/.