Franca Viola

Franca Viola


Giclée print 11’ x 14’ // 27,9 x 35,6 cm
Printed on 300 gsm paper, slightly textured with a chalky smooth cotton feel. 
Signed and numbered.
Includes A5 card detailing Kathrine’s extraordinary story.*

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In the mid 60s — when Franca was a teenager — social conventions in Southern Italy dictated that a woman would lose her ‘honour’ and bring shame to her family, if she did not marry the man she lost her virginity to.

When she was 15, Franca agreed to marry a man in his 20s, but she ended the engagement after he was arrested. She then started seeing someone else, but two years later, her former fiancé tried to re-enter her life. After she rejected him again, he began threatening her, her family, and her new boyfriend.

In December 1965 and with the help of 12 accomplices, Viola’s former fiancé kidnapped her and held her hostage for 8 days, during which he repeatedly raped her. He told her that now she would have to marry him, so as not to become a “dishonoured” woman.

When she was finally released in January 1966 — just one week before turning 18 — supported by her father but against local customs, not only she refused again to marry him, she also sued him for kidnapping and rape.

His lawyers maintained that Viola hadn’t been kidnapped, but rather she had consented to a “fuitina”, a runaway to get married.

Not only culturally, but also according to the Italian law, an appalling crime such as rape would be excused, if the couple later wed in a ‘reparatory marriage’ — the man forgiven for his violence and the woman’s ‘honour’ restored. Article 544 of the Italian Penal Code even equated rape to a crime against “public morality”, rather than a personal offence.

The trial had wide resonance in the Italian media, to the point that Parliament got involved, as it became obvious that part of the existing code clashed with the public opinion. Viola’s rapist was ultimately found guilty and sent to prison.

The article of law whereby a rapist could extinguish his crime by marrying his victim was finally abolished in 1981.