Berlusconi ally praises sex appeal of women in politics
A close ally of Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has provoked a furious debate on sexism in Italian politics after saying that women wanting to be elected to parliament should use their bodies to kick-start their careers.
Giorgio Stracquadanio, a government MP, said it was "absolutely legitimate" for women to use their sex appeal and physical attributes to ensure success in their political careers.
"To develop a career, everyone uses what they have. Even their bodies -- it is absolutely legitimate. Everyone should use their body as they see fit. As long as there is consent and there is no violence, then there's no problem," Mr Stracquadanio said.
He added that if a female MP admitted to having secured her position in exchange for sexual favours, it would not constitute grounds for resignation or even embarrassment.
His remarks were strongly condemned across the political spectrum, with MPs describing them as "nauseating", "misogynist" and "vulgar and unacceptable".
Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of the fascist leader, said the comments were "a total disaster".
But they appeared to confirm the long-held impression that Mr Berlusconi and his cohorts prize beauty more than brains, having installed a string of showgirls and models with little political experience in parliament.
The current tourism minister, Michela Brambilla (42), is a former Miss Italy finalist known for her high heels and short skirts, while the equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, used to pose semi-naked for men's magazines. (© Daily Telegraph, London)