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“Women are not merely a product with an expiry date”: Italy pulls controversial Fertility Day campaign

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Just in case you were starting to think we were actually getting somewhere with advancing women's rights on a global platform, the Italian government is here to remind us just how far we still have to go.

The authority has been forced to pull their new initiative to reduce women to the sum of their reproductive abilities, after their Fertility Day campaign backfired on social media.

"Beauty has no age. But fertility does," smirked one of six images released as part of the misguided attempt to encourage more women to fall pregnant at a young age.

Presented alongside a photograph of a knowing young woman patting her stomach with one hand and holding out a rapidly-running-out hourglass of sand with the other, the message for viewers was loud and clear: women need to get on with getting pregnant, and fast.

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"Beauty has no age. But fertility does."

The remaining five images were equally offensive, ranging from the creepy (a couple in bed alongside the tagline "Young parents. The best way to be creative") to the baffling (a stork tagged with "Hurry up! Don't wait for the stork").

The social media campaign was launched to coincide with the announcement that Italy would be holding its first national Fertility Day on 22 September, with the hope of encouraging more couples to conceive. The event will see "fertility villages" pop up in cities including Rome, Bologna, Catania and Padua, offering advice and information about pregnancy and infertility as well as providing access to reproductive experts.



The initiative was launched after it was found that the fertility rate of women in Italy was lower than the EU average (1.35 children per woman compared to 1.6), with 2014 seeing the smallest number of live births (509,000) recorded in the country since it was founded in 1861.

However, the campaign received a huge backlash online, with both women and men taking to social media in their droves to express their outrage at the messaging used.

Even Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, voiced his doubts about the campaign when he spoke about it during a radio interview: "As far as I know, none of my friends had their kids after seeing an advert," he said.

Speaking to stylist.co.uk, native Italian Cristina Vianello, 28 from Venice, described her disappointment with the "scandalous" initiative.

"The campaign is really offensive for everyone: for those who can't have children, for those who would love them but can't afford to care for them and for the women in general, who are merely seen as a product with an expiry date," she said. "It's offensive for men too, as their role appears to have been forgotten and the focus is on fertility rather than family."

Describing the campaign images as "theatening", Vianello added that she felt the whole issue boiled down to one of freedom.

"It looks like it's saying you should feel guilty if you're not 20 anymore and don't have a child, or if you have decided not to have children at all."



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"It looks like it's saying you should feel guilty if you're not 20 anymore and don't have a child."

Critics of the campaign have also highlighted its hypocrisy, as Italian companies do not have to provide paid maternity leave and the unemployment rate for young people under the age of 25 is a massive 39.2%.

"The government needs to reduce the unemployment rat and the precariousness for young people as these are the main problems that make you think twice before you start a family," Vianello said.

Sadly, Italy is not the only country to have launched such a campaign: three years ago, Singapore released a "modern fairytale" that warned of declining fertility, while here in the UK, a 2013 campaign reminded women of their biological clocks with an image of a pregnant Kate Garroway airbrushed to seem improbably old.

It seems we haven't gotten very far, after all.

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