Politics

A right-wing plan to give women free parking in Italy faces backlash

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A policeman gestures as he directs traffic in downtown Rome January 24, 2014

Credit:

Tony Gentile/Reuters 

The small town of Pontida in northern Italy has sparked outrage by offering free parking permits to pregnant women and young mothers — but only if they are married or an EU citizen.

The policy, introduced at the start of September, stipulated that free parking permits would be granted to women "belonging to a natural nuclear family, of Italian nationality, or a citizen of European Union member states."

But on Wednesday the rightwing mayor Luigi Carozzi scrapped the rules after they were criticised for excluding single mothers, gays and foreign women.

Pontida, a town of around 3,000 people in Lombardy, is run by the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

Democratic Party councillor Jacopo Scandella called the policy "repugnant".

"What will the next step be, reserved seats on buses, separate schools for foreigners, prohibition of mixed marriages?"

The populist 5 Star Movement also joined the backlash.

"It is time to end this, enough discrimination, the league cannot make us return to the Middle Ages," said regional councillor Dario Violi. 

On Sunday, the town will host the Northern League's annual conference. Pontida was the place where, in medieval times, a group of cities came together to forge a regional alliance called the Lombardy League.