14 Feb 2011

Women demonstrate against Italian PM

3:56 pm on 14 February 2011

Women in Italy are holding nationwide protests against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Demonstrations were held in dozens of cities. Organisers say Mr Berlusconi has damaged the standing of women with his recent sex scandals.

He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the current investigations against him are politically motivated.

This week he said a request by prosecutors in Milan to have him put on trial immediately for on a accusation of paying for sex with an underage girl was "disgusting". He said the prosecutors' case was a "pretext" to oust him.

Mr Berlusconi, 74, denies paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug - a Moroccan nightclub dancer also known as Ruby - when she was 17, and abusing his power to get her released by police after she was detained in another case.

A magistrate will now decide if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.

If convicted, Mr Berlusconi could face up to 15 years in prison.

Although frequenting prostitutes is not a crime in Italy, the BBC reports that having sex with one under the age of 18 is an offence that carries a prison sentence.

The day of protest is called Se non ora, quando? (If not now, when?).