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Italy's Tight Jeans Ruling

While there have been many silly and outlandish excuses made when dodging rape accusations, it is a challenge to find one as nonsensical as the “tight jeans” alibi. The idea behind it is that if the victim was wearing tight jeans or leggings, they can’t possibly have been raped as it’s somehow impossible to take such tight pants off without the wearer’s participation. This take formed the basis of the Italian High Court ruling of 1998, stemming from a rape case in 1992.

In 1992 in Lucano, Italy, a female student driver was driven off course by her 45-year-old male instructor to an abandoned area and raped. The victim pressed charges, and, in the subsequent trial, the rapist was only convicted on charges of indecent exposure. After the defendant appealed this sentence, the instructor was found guilty of rape charges. However, he later appealed to the Italian Supreme Court who then overturned the original rape conviction. From this, the “jeans alibi” was born. The judges involved reasoned that: “it is a fact of common experience that it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.” This argument, although rarely heard, is not entirely new in Italy. In another rape case in 1960s Sardinia, the judge involved ruled it was not a rape because the victim had been wearing jeans and, in their words, “as is known, jeans are not easily removed.”

The following night, this ruling was rightly met with outrage and furore. Female members of the Italian Parliament protested by wearing jeans and holding placards that said “Jeans: alibi for rape.” This conviction reached international media platforms, as activists in LA even took part across the Atlantic. 12 years later, the Italian Supreme Court overturned this decision, signalling the beginning of the end of certain archaic and outdated patriarchal views held by Italy’s older generations.

Since then, Denim Day USA is a yearly event that takes place on the last Wednesday of April (Sexual Assault Awareness Month). On this occasion, allies are to wear jeans in protest of victim-blaming and pinning fault on rape survivors for what happened to them. In 2014, GUESS became the Official Fashion Sponsor for Denim Day, and by 2016 Denim Day had gone viral internationally, being observed in over 100 countries.

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