Italian High Court Rules Public Masturbation Not a Crime

Corte di Cassazione
Giorgio Cosulich/Getty

Italy’s highest court has ruled that public masturbation is no longer a crime in Italy, exonerating a 69-year-old man who had been convicted of “autoeroticism” performed in front of a group of female students at the University of Catania last May.

The man, identified only as “Pietro L,” was arrested for “having extracted his member” and masturbated in public, and later sentenced to three months in prison. The Catania court had found the man guilty despite his claims that his action was a first offense and that few saw him because of “the reduced visibility at dusk.”

On appeal, Italy’s Supreme Court, or Corte di Cassazione, ruled that public masturbation had actually been decriminalized under 2015’s Legislative Decree 8, though it was still punishable by a fine.

The justices of the Supreme Court have thus eliminated the effects of a criminal conviction for obscene acts in public places (except where minors are involved), and the charges against the man were lowered to a misdemeanor.

Pietro’s jail sentence was thereby commuted into a fine, and the action will be expunged from his criminal record. It is now up to local courts in Catania to determine the exact amount of the administrative fine, stipulated between €5,000 ($5,640) and €30,000 ($33,825).

By virtue of this measure, the court has cancelled the man’s guilty verdict “because the act does not fall under criminal law.”

While the Renzi government has never paid much attention to equal opportunities, said Elvira Savino, a parliamentarian from the center-Right Forza Italia party, “to keep people who commit obscene acts in front of women out of jail is really inexcusable.”

“The government’s law is an invitation to every maniac to keep molesting women,” she posted on Facebook.

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