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Anti- rape bracelet stirs debate
Idea put forward by candidate for Rome mayor


ANSA) - Rome, April 22 - A proposal to protect women from rape by fitting them with special tracking bracelets is stirring heated debate in Italy.

The idea was put forward by outgoing Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli, who is running for Rome mayor.

Rutelli suggested that women who were forced to cross risky areas of the city alone at night be given bracelets which would alert the police in the event of danger.

The proposal followed a brutal sex attack on an African woman in Rome last Thursday which turned law and order into a top issue in the Sunday-Monday mayoral vote.

Rutelli, who served two terms as Rome mayor from 1993 to 2001, said the alarm bracelets could be introduced on an experimental basis for ''women alone in isolated areas''.

The device would allow the wearer to transmit an alarm signal to the nearest police station and also contain a tracking signal allowing police to then find the wearer.

Rutelli's aides explained that the device would be similar to the electronic ankle tags worn by some types of offenders in Britain. But Rutelli's centre-right rival for the mayoral post, Giovanni Alemanno, was scathing.

''This is a case of do-it-yourself safety in which citizens are supposed to compensate for the failings of the state and the city,'' said Alemanno, a former agriculture minister.

''Rutelli should be the one made to wear the bracelet,'' he said.

Isabella Bertolini, a top member of premier-in-waiting Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party, said that ''this is a ridiculous and offensive proposal''.

Other centre-right female politicians said the bracelets were ''humiliating' ' and that the only way to make the city safer for women was by putting more police on the streets and increasing surveillance in dangerous areas.

But women's rights activist Manuela Moroli said she liked the idea.

''Why not? The bracelets wouldn't be obligatory and if they make women feel safer and more protected, then all the better,'' Moroli said.

Late last Thursday night, a 31-year-old woman from Lesotho was knifed and raped at a railway station, La Storta, on the outskirts of Rome.

A 37-year-old Romanian who was living in an illegal encampment near the station has been arrested in connection with the crime.

Parallels were immediately drawn with a savage murder at the end of October which horrified the nation and led to the expulsion of dozens of Romanians considered a threat to public order.

In that case, a 47-year-old Italian woman was beaten, raped, robbed and then left to die by a 24-year-old Romanian gypsy in an early evening attack outside another railway station very near to La Storta.

The woman died after spending two days in a coma.

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