Italian mayor marks Women's Day with pepper spray

File image of a woman holding a can of pepper spray Image copyright AFP
Image caption Italian women are usually given flowers on International Women's Day

An Italian mayor has marked International Women's Day by giving female residents free cans of pepper spray so they can defend themselves "against people with malicious intentions".

Mayor Tomasso Fiazza, a member of the populist right-wing Northern League, made the unusual gift to the women of Fontevivo instead of the more traditional yellow mimosa flowers given on International Women's Day in Italy, the newspaper Il Giornale reports. "Obviously, flowers are beautiful but far too many women are downtrodden, attacked and sexually assaulted," Mr Fiazza says. "We want to help them defend themselves". A note inside the gift packaging says that the canisters represent a "simple and practical tool to protect women from evil... We hope you never have to use it".

Quoting a report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, The Local website says that 152 women were murdered in Italy in 2014, and 27% of Italian women reported physical or sexual abuse by current or previous partners. The pepper-spray programme, which is said to cost the town 600 euros ($658; £462), will be ongoing and will entitle any woman in the town to "anti-assault kits".

However, the "gift" has not been well received in some quarters, the Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper reports. Patrizia Maestri, a MP representing the centre-left Democratic Party, wrote on her Facebook page: "Is a town in our province really giving out pepper spray as an 'initiative' for Women's Day? A great cultural operation - that's so sad". But Mr Fiazza is in no mood to back to down: "So far, not one citizen has complained."

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