Two Italian senators said to have made gestures suggestive of oral sex to an opposing female colleague during a debate in parliament have been suspended by the Senate’s speaker.
Speaker Pietro Grasso took the action against Lucio Barani and Vincenzo d’Anna after receiving complaints about their behaviour which occurred during a debate on the Constitutional Reform Bill last Friday, reports The Local.
The two men, members of the Liberal-Popular and Autonomous Alliance, were accused of making gestures akin to miming oral sex in the direction of Barbara Lezzi, of Italy’s eurosceptic Five Star Movement (M5S).
The gesture, first made by Barani (formerly of the New Italian Socialist Party, but who now leads the Liberal-Popular and Autonomous Alliance caucus) and later copied by d’Anna (formerly of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia) outraged other senators from various parties who demanded an apology after the chamber descended into chaos (see video below).
Paola Taverna, also a Five Star senator, called Barani a “disgusting pig” before she re-enacted the gesture for Speaker Grasso’s benefit, reports The Metro.
Luigi Zanda, the head of Italy’s ruling Democratic Party described the event as “absolutely inappropriate for parliament”.
Although d’Anna claimed that “the so-called ladies do much worse than us and Grasso allows it”, both suspended senators have now claimed their gestures were misunderstood and that they were not, in fact, miming oral sex.
Senator Barani told Italian news agency Ansa:
“I am truly sorry about what is happening in the Senate due to a misunderstanding generated by some instinctive gestures of mine.
“With my hand turned to my own face, I was inviting those who were interrupting Senator Falanga to swallow the papers they were waving so vehemently…
“If (my gesture) was interpreted in an offensive way, I apologise to the women colleagues who perceived such gestures as being directed at them.”