Thousands of Italian women rally against Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi

Thousands of women took to the streets of Italian cities calling for 'dignity" and greater rights after a series of lurid prostitution scandals involving Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"We are defending the dignity of women," read a placard held up at one of the rallies in Palermo, where thousands of women marched through the city.

Thousands more rallied in Bari, Trieste and Venice with men also joining.

Solidarity protests by women abroad were also expected, with a small rally of around 100 women held outside the Italian consulate in Tokyo earlier Sunday.

"The importance of this rally is in the common participation of men and women, young and old, intellectuals and workers," Naples mayor Rosa Russo Iervolino said as she marched through the southern Italian city.

The initiative has been organised by sisters Francesca and Cristina Comencini, both actresses, who argue that Berlusconi's playboy antics and his sexist comments are part of a much wider problem in Italian society.

"Neither right-wing governments, nor left-wing ones have ever done anything," Cristina Comencini said ahead of the protests.

She also criticised "discrimination in the job market due to a lack of day-nurseries, family helpers and part-time jobs."

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