Thank Heavens for little girls! Italy, that wonderful country full of generous, vivacious, talented and charming people, wonderful food and a cultural Paradise on Earth has become the focus of attention for the worst reasons, due to the polemic around the President of the Council of Ministers, Silvio Berlusconi.
While one could say it is none of our business, and what Silvio Berlusconi does or does not do is his own problem at least and that of Italy, at most, this is not entirely true because much wider issues are brought into play.
The question of justice
For a start, Justice. We are not speaking here only about Silvio Berlusconi and whether or not he paid a minor for sex and then tried to cover it up - simply because the hearing has not been concluded and in any civilised society, a person is innocent until proven guilty, judged and sentenced and punished. Let us take for example the case of Casa Pia, which started in Portugal in 2002 (sexual abuse of minors in a state-run orphanage) and which has still not finished. For those with their names involved, their lives have been ruined, quite apart from whether or not they were guilty of the crimes they are accused of - because the case is still ongoing. The same can be said of Silvio Berlusconi, whose case has been adjourned until May.
The second point is, why have these cases, involving well-known public figures, been postponed, in the former case, for nearly a decade, when if some poor mite is accused of stealing a strawberry he is fined - or thrown into jail - the next day?
This is the world we live in, a world in which the high and mighty go unpunished and whose legal processes drag on indefinitely, and where there is a different set of measures for the common citizen. It is a world in which nations can invent lies and excuses to invade a sovereign country, break the UN Charter and international law, commit war crimes, while manipulating the media and furthering their own interests and those of the lobbies they defend. People are killed, the Geneva Conventions are broken, nothing happens.
If at the turn of the third millennium we are still living in a world in which people can be publicly accused of a crime they did not commit; or did commit but use their influence to doctor the system and get off scot-free, if we are living in a world in which there is one set of weights and measures for the haves and another for the have-nots, in which war crimes can be committed, people can be illegally kidnapped and taken to The Hague (the illegal detention of Slobodan Milosevic, for instance), then we can conclude, in two thousand years after Christ, we have not created a fair justice system. In plain English, Justice does not exist.
The question of women's rights and gender equality
If Signor Berlusconi is innocent - and nobody is accusing him of anything here - good for him. However, if there is an iota of truth in the fact that the Bunga Bunga parties at his residence involved prostitutes, and worse, minors, then what a shocking and disgusting comment not only on Italy's Head of Government, but on the country itself if he is not summarily removed from office.
Women's rights are being derided daily - tens of thousands of girls disappear yearly into the sex trade - up to a third of women experience some form of abuse in their lives. Prostitution is not something funny for men to boast about - it is a living nightmare for those caught up in it - and the statistics say that over 90% of prostitutes say they would like to get out of the profession.
Joining the two points together - justice or the lack of it and the issue of gender abuse - has allowed a question that might or might not have any legal foundation, to bring into disrepute the status of a whole nation in the eyes of the world.
If he is innocent, then Berlusconi should do something to improve his justice system so that his name is not constantly dragged into the dirt. If he is guilty, then Silvio Berlusconi would be the worst traitor Italy has had in modern history, turning his country into a joke, destroying its image, deriding its integrity.
Whatever the case, Silvio Berlusconi's management of the case(s) has been such that allegations about his private life have become the talk of the town - for instance, who foots the bill? Do the Italian taxpayers have to pick up the tab for the domestic expenses? Imagine, 3,000 Euro for the girl coming out of the cake; 25,000 Euro for kisses; 10,000 for foot massages...15,000 for...er... toe jobs...
Rather than enjoying his senior years as a respected citizen, the political and life epitaph of Silvio Berlusconi, innocent or guilty, will be played to the words and music of Maurice Chevalier's "Thank Heavens, for little girls". And the image of Italy, today, is...Bunga! Bunga! Oink! Oink!