ROME, Oct. 25, 2010 -- The mayor of a seaside town in the Naples area of Southern Italy has shot to national fame -- and been ridiculed in cyberspace -- after announcing that he would ban what he deems anti-social behavior to raise standards of public decency.
If the regulations are approved at today's city council meeting in Castellammare di Stabia, local police will be forced to fine anyone in town wearing revealing clothes: miniskirts, low-cut jeans or deep-plunging blouses.
The new regulations consist of 41 points that also include a ban on using obscene language, playing soccer in the public parks, sunbathing or men's going bare-chested in public areas, and purchasing alcohol after 10 p.m. Proposed fines go from about $35 to $700.
Mayor Luigi Bobbio of the governing center-right People of Freedom Party, a former magistrate who says he is neither a "moralist or an authoritarian," said the regulations would help "restore urban decorum and facilitate better civil co-existence" and put a stop to "rowdy, unruly or simply bad behavior."
Local parish priest Don Paulo Cecere, quoted in the local media, said, "I think it's the right decision. It's also a way of combating the rise in sexual harassment."
Most of the anger on blogs and Internet sites was directed at the priest's comments. And opposition political parties called the regulations useless and "offensive to the dignity of women," accusing the mayor of distracting voters' attention from the real problems of unemployment and insufficient services and facilities in the town.
Female politicians have vowed to stage a sit-in outside the town hall when the council is in session today.
Many women in the town were furious, with one asking, "So are we meant to call the mayor each morning before we leave home to check that he approves our clothing?"
"Just who exactly will decide what is too revealing? Decorum is a personal opinion," another said.
Decency Laws Tend to Fade Away
Some residents see the measures as attempts to target the immigrant workers who have flooded the towns, bringing their different customs with them.
Mayor Bobbio is hardly the first Italian mayor to make use of extra powers handed down from the central government, especially in seaside towns, in an effort to fight crime and curtail anti-social behavior.
He is also not the first to garner attention and headlines in the national media for such efforts. Cynics see the regulations as nothing more publicity stunts because, they say, laws of this kind are ignored by tourists and soon forgotten.
In the past, for instance, Italian mayors have banned building sand castles and having picnics by the seashore, kissing in cars, lying on public benches (even sitting on them after 11 p.m.), feeding stray cats, wearing wooden clogs and mowing lawns on weekends.
But even if the council shoots down the latest proposals today, the mayor may have achieved what he was after anyway: having Castellammare di Stabia associated with the kind of decency and correct behavior for which it has not been previously known.