Disgusted by sex scandal, Italian women plan mass protest

Disgusted by sex scandal, Italian women plan mass protest

The rally comes in the wake of weeks of lurid reporting on the women at the centre of investigations into the embattled leader -- and Berlusconi's own controversial comments in his defence.

Today's event has been organised by sisters Francesca and Cristina Comencini, both actresses, who argue that Berlusconi himself is part of the problem. "Berlusconi has long shown a violent contempt for women with his misogynist remarks," Francesca Comencini said.

The Italian leader is fighting off allegations that he paid for sex with disco dancer Ruby, real name Karima El Mahroug, when she was a minor. While he denies ever having done so, many people have been offended by his manner of defending himself.

"I have never paid a woman," Berlusconi said in one interview last year.

"I have never seen the satisfaction that there could be in it without the pleasure of conquest."

And in a speech in November he remarked: "It's better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay." A video on Youtube calls on women to join Sunday's demonstrations as well as the flash-mobs and non-stop lectures that will be held on Sunday in Milan, Rome and hundreds of towns across the country. Men who support the cause are also welcome.