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Leaders' Wives Urged to Boycott Berlusconi

The recent hubbub surrounding Silvio Berlusconi is not the first time he has been accused of sexist behavior. The Italian Prime Minister has claimed the opposition "has no taste, not even when it comes to women," appointed several, er, striking, yet politically inexperienced women to ministerial posts, and been caught staring at the legs of the new Miss Italy. Life Magazine captured his reputation well with a gallery entitled "Future Berlusconi Appointees" and filled entirely with Miss Italy winners and Italian Miss World representatives. 

Now, a trio of female academics have called on the wives of G8 leaders to send a message to Berlusconi:

Wives of the world leaders due to attend next month’s G8 summit in Italy should boycott the meeting because of Silvio Berlusconi’s “sexist” and “offensive” attitude to women, a group of Italian female academics has said.

A number of wives, including Sarah Brown and Michelle Obama, are to join their husbands at the summit, although the wife of the Italian Prime Minister will not be hosting as she is seeking a divorce[...]

In the first sign of a public reaction against the stories of scores of young models attending parties thrown by the Prime Minister, 72, three social sciences academics have written an “Appeal to the First Ladies” and claim to have garnered “hundreds of signatures” in support of the letter.

“We are profoundly indignant, as women employed in the world of universities and culture, at the way in which the Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi treats women both in public and in private,” the letter reads.

Though such a boycott will not happen, it would be a powerful statement. Still, I do have to ask: why are the wives expected to attend in the first place? As Dana Goldstein pointed out, neither Mr. Angela Merkel nor Mr. Cristina Kirchner went to April's G20 meeting, yet all 18 wives attended. If those two find summits not worth their time, then surely the wives can find a more productive way to spend three days than making nice for the camera.

JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images

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Riyadh cracks down on drag

Riyadh's strict Islamic morals have been challenged in the past month when over 70 (mostly Filipino) men were arrested for indecency after being caught wearing women's clothing and makeup. The original Arabic newspaper report reveals images of those arrested with incriminating evidence. The Guardian reports:

According to the paper, most of those arrested are 'practitioners of sexual deviance' accustomed to renting guest houses at weekends for 'shameless' parties where they 'practise these disgraceful rituals'. More than 580 comments from readers posted under the article show strong approval for the police action, coupled in some cases with expressions of xenophobia and racism."

Parties like this one are not uncommon in Riyadh, although they occasionally result in raids and mass arrests by the Saudi police.

According to many conservative Islamic scholars, imitating the opposite sex in such a manner is considered sinful.

The punishment for said crime varies yet remains severe, with many offenders receiving over five years of jail time with daily lashings. Vice-President of the Philippines Noli De Castro responded to the situation timidly, urging overseas Filipino workers to abide by the standards of Saudi society. Clearly, the La Cage aux Folles world tour will not be making a stop in Riyadh.