Italy i s a country made up of 20 regi ons, each with its own tradi tions 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 soci al
welfare, with extended families still living together, i n 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 co mplicity 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). Accordi ng to the most recent
surveys, in a population of 60 438 973,1 there are about 2 600 000 people with
disabilities, which represents 4.3 % of the t otal population.2 Pupils with disability number
156 000, or 3 % of the total numb er of students. One million people identify themselves
as homosexual or bisexual.3 There are 5 144 400 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 int o the Catholic Church, although only around
25 % declare themselves to be practising Catholi cs. 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 memb ers.
In 2018, the law on the prison system was amended, prohibiting discrimination and
introducing a duty on the administration to place a homosexual detainee in an
appropriate place, taking into account his or her fear of being mistreated by fellow
prisoners and the right to access training activities.4 Proper implementation of the law
requires appropriate places but not separate ones: homosexual detai nees enjoy the rig ht
to access all training activities avail able to detainees i n general and sh ould not be pl aced
in separate or special places.
The majority of judgments in the field of discrimination law are still b ased 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 i s ig nored even in databases that ar e c ommonly used by judges and lawyers.
Both on political plat forms and in the social sciences, discrimination is still a low -priority
issue. The marginalisation of the activity of the Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni
Razziali (UNAR) (National Office Agai nst Racial Discrimination), an office of the
Government that i s suppos ed 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 provi de
accurate estimates of the frequency and magnitude of discrimination in all fields – and
media reports are often very in accurate.5 Certainly, hostile attitudes can be observed
1 Istat (2019), available at: http://dati.istat.it/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=DCIS_POPRES1.
2 Istat (2010), La disabilità in Italia (Disability in Italy), available at:
3 Istat (2012), La popolazione omosessuale nella società italiana – 2011 (The homosexual population in
Italian society – 2011), available at: http://www.istat.it/it/files/2012/05/report-omofobia_6giugno.pdf.
4 Italy, Legislative Decree 123/2018, on reforming the prison system (Riforma dell’ordinamento
penitenziario), 2 October 2018, available at: https://www.normattiva.it/uri-
5 Survey on discrimination by gender, sexual orientation and ethnic origin (IST-02258 Indagine sulle
discriminazioni in base al genere, all'orientamento sessuale, alla appartenenza etnica), available at: