Two Italian men were cleared of rape charges in 2017 partly because an Italian appeals court, consisting of three female judges, thought the alleged female victim looked “too masculine” to be sexually assaulted.
Although the ruling was handed down two years ago, the reasoning for it wasn’t made public until this past Friday, when Italy’s highest court rejected that decision and ordered a retrial, The Guardian reports. Hundreds of people gathered outside the Ancona, Italy, courtroom on Monday to protest the lower court’s dismissal of the charges, according to The Local Italy.
In 2015, a 22-year-old Peruvian woman who had gone to a bar with friends accused one man of raping her while the other watched. According to doctors, her injuries were consistent with rape and her blood contained high levels of benzodiazepines, a type of tranquilizer often used as a date rape drug. Both men were convicted of rape in 2016.
The appeals court in Ancona overturned the convictions the following year, finding that the woman was not credible in part because of her looks, according to documents published Friday.
The judges wrote that one of the accused “didn’t even like the girl, to the point of having stored her number in his phone under the nickname ‘Viking,’ an allusion to an anything but feminine figure, rather a masculine one,” according to The Local Italy.
The court pointed to a photograph of the woman as evidence to “confirm” that she was too unattractive to be a target of sexual assault.
“I read this sentence in 2017 and that’s why we referred it to the supreme court,” the woman’s attorney, Cinzia Molinaro, told the Guardian.
“It was disgusting to read. The judges expressed various reasons for deciding to acquit them, but one was because the [defendants] said they didn’t even like her, because she was ugly,” the lawyer said.
The case is set to be retried in a court in Perugia, which lies in a different province from Ancona, at an undetermined future date.