World Congress Famiy counter protest
03 April 2019

Verona: international solidarity against right-wing extremists

IPPFEN gathers in Verona against the World Congress of Families

On the 29th – 31st of March, under the auspices of local authorities and with the support of various Italian Government Ministers, the city of Verona was host to the ‘World Congress of Families’ (WCF).

This global gathering of right-wing extremists has a clear agenda of ‘restoring the natural order’ which includes forcing women through pregnancies, banning contraception care, bullying people to remain married, and attacking LGBTIQ rights. That is why we as IPPF EN felt the need to join citizens and defenders of human rights in protesting this oppressive agenda.

The activists who gathered in Verona came from various sections of Italian and international civil society, creating a powerful cross-border, cross-sectoral movement fighting for one common goal – a free society. A huge mobilisation including students, families, trade unions, feminists, LGBTIQ movements and anti-mafia activists came together to stand firm against reproductive coercion and violence, and to stand up for the freedom and protection of all families and life with dignity and respect.

20 000 protesters – families, women, men, young people - gathered under the banner of love and freedom. But victimhood was a leitmotif of the WCF, and so the protests prompted unfounded accusations that participants were ‘under attack’ from progressives. There were also Trumpist overtones to this victim complex, where credible media outlets were presented as ‘fake news’ and critical coverage of the Congress was portrayed as proof that media had been co-opted into progressives’ ‘cultural revolution.’ This narrative of censure and marginalization was notable for its failure to reference to the substantial funding received by groups connected to the WCF, where the Congress has been linked to ‘dark money’ from Russian oligarchs and American fundamentalists.

Regardless of their efforts to misinform, one quick online search of ‘World Congress of Families’ will tell you that most news stories on the meeting focused on resistance to it, which was also seen on the front pages of Italian newspapers. Even more significant, was the division the Congress created among members of the Italian government with conflict arising between Lega and 5 Star Movement Ministers, and the PM distancing himself from the event. There was also disagreement within Lega itself as one politician resigned from the party out of protest to its support for the Congress.

The WCF was an awakening for our movement, at a time when we urgently need to build bridges and connect internationally. Speakers and in particular politicians at the WCF put emphasis on the importance of strategizing around the EU elections – a reminder that human rights’ defenders must do the same. It is vital to stand together in defence of our future at the booths for the EU elections this May.  


-Antonia Pindulić and Eimear Sparks from IPPFEN

Photo Credit: Karmela Segvic