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Thousands of Italian women protest against Berlusconi

Thousands of Italian women have turned out across the country to protest against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. They say his alleged affairs with young women humiliate females as a whole.

Protesters carrying banner

The banner reads, 'Italy is not a brothel'

Italian women have turned out in their thousands to protest against the lewd behavior Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

The Italian leader, who openly acknowledges his fondness for pretty young women, is being investigated for allegedly paying for sex with a 17-year-old nightclub dancer.

Women chanting "enough!" and waving placards with signs saying "Italy is not a brothel" demanded Berlusconi's resignation. Women's groups said the premier has hurt their dignity, and object to the indecent representation of women in newspapers, advertising and on television.

'I'm a woman and I say enough'

One of the first protests began early Sunday in Palermo, Sicily, with at least 5,000 participants according to local media. Other demonstrations were planned in 230 Italian cities as well as abroad. The largest rally was in Rome, which started with a minute's silence.

Women hold a poster with a photo of Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi behind bars

Berlusconi has a track record of dalliances with women

"We're here to say that Italian women are not all like Berlusconi's prostitutes," Maria Rosa Veritta, a protester in Milan, told the AFP news agency. "It's a horrible image that we're giving. We've become a joke in the rest of the world."

The charges against the 74-year-old stem from evidence, including recorded phone calls, which suggest Berlusconi paid several women for sex, including at least one minor - an erotic dancer who was 17 when she first attended a party at his house.

Prosecutors allege Berlusconi later used his influence to help spring her from police custody when she was being held on theft charges.

Both Berlusconi and the now 18-year-old dancer deny they had sex with each other.

Italy's speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini, a former Berlusconi ally, also criticized the premier on Sunday.

"You can't consider yourself above the law and feel that you have absolute impunity," Fini said. "We have become the laughing stock of the Western world."

Author: Catherine Bolsover (dpa, AP, AFP)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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