Off the Wall: Lesbian Inmates - A Tale of Two Countries

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A couple of months ago SFGN reported on a British Prison banning lesbian inmates from rooming with each other. Women in relationships could apply to be in the same unit but not in the same cell.

In Italy, a country that is still far behind the rest of Western Europe on gay rights, the same situation, was handled, surprisingly, in the opposite manner. The prison of Rebibbia, a suburb of Rome, Italy, on the northeast edge of the city, is one of the major Italian jails intended for rehabilitation and social reintegration. In the summer of 2017 two female inmates, Camilla and Adriana, were sharing, with other females, the same cell. Serving time for drugs they slowly became close and fell in love.

Their relationship became known and thanks to their exemplary behavior, the warden, or in this case the Matron, together with the counseling of a psychiatrist and a pedagogue, pushed forth their requests to be assigned a cell just for the two of them and to be able to celebrate a civil union. It was a first.

They were allowed to commemorate the occasion with a big party complete with flowers, gifts, dresses, rings, a cake, and friends and families from the outside. Even the prison Chaplain and the Town Councilor took part in the ceremony. The entire prison of Rebibbia became a small village wishing the newlywed couple well.

No honeymoon for now, that will have to wait until 2019 when they will both free again. For now, they spend their time in a small cell with a bunk bed, a small electrical stove and their framed picture on the wall. The prison is the condominium and the cell their happy apartment. It is a small step toward reform of the Italian prison system tackling with " love behind bars," a place where more often than not sexuality is associated with violence.

While Camilla and Adriana can now share the same cell and plan the next step in their lives together it is important to point out, and this is one of those cases when common sense is turned upside down, that if the couple was heterosexual immediately after the marriage was performed they would have been sent to separate cells.


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