Legal but… A Brief Overview of the Regulation of Homosexuality in Italy

Alessio Ponzio (he/him/his), received his PhD in history and politics from the Universitá Roma Tre and his second PhD in women’s studies and history from the University of Michigan. Ponzio is the author of several articles and two books. He has held postdoctoral fellowships at the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG-Mainz), at the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities (Wellesley College) and at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is Assistant Professor in Modern European History and History of Gender and Sexuality at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) and Professor in the History of Homosexuality at the Università di Torino. Ponzio is a member of the Queer Caucus of the American Association of Italian Studies and cofounder of the LGBT+ History Month Italia (organized for the first time in April 2022) and of the International Committee on LGBTQ+ History Months. After two years in the Italian team, Ponzio joined from July 2023 the 2SLGBTQ+ History Month Canada team, working with Meryem Benslimane. Ponzio is part of the editorial team of the Italian online magazine Gay.it and is currently working with UNAR – the Italian National Anti-Racial Discrimination Office – to create a website about LGBTQ+ history and queer issues in Italy.

In contrast to many other Western countries, same-sex acts were decriminalized in Italy at the end of the 19th century. There were several failed attempts to recriminalize same-sex sexuality in the 20th century. But we should not be deceived by the seeming tolerance of Italian politicians and the absence of repressive laws. In the decades following the official decriminalization of same-sex sex, sexual and gender nonconformity faced moral condemnation, social stigma and other legal sanctions.

Not A Crime

Sodomy – understood as any form of sexual activity that did not involve penile-vaginal intercourse – was decriminalized by the French Assembly in 1791. This measure was confirmed by the Penal Code of 1810. This decision had important repercussions in Italy, where several States, then controlled by Napoleon, began to implement the French penal code.

History of early modern Italy - Wikipedia
In the early 19th century only the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of Sicily were independent. The rest of the Italian territory was under French direct and indirect control (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Naples_%28Napoleonic%29#/media/File:Italy_c_1810.png).
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