Women in Naples are staging a sex strike in an attempt to stop their menfolk from setting off dangerous New Year fireworks which cause injury and even death.
Carolina Staiano, 44, who is leading the campaign, said it has started with twenty women in in the town of Lettere near Naples "almost as a joke" but had spread "like wildfire" by e-mail and mobile phone over the past month to the point where ''I can't keep up". She said she was receiving phone calls and text messages "all the time" from hundreds of women signing up.
Mrs Staiano, a mother of two, has spent her life caring for father, who became semi-paralysed after someone let off a firework next to him at New Year, injuring his legs. He has suffered from epileptic fits ever since.
Mrs Staiano said that "at midnight on New Year's Eve Naples is like Gaza. It's terrible that a time of celebration becomes a time of tragedy".
''If a sex strike is what it takes in order to get the attention of our men, husbands, partners and sons, then we're ready for it," she told ANSA, the Italian news agency. "This time they're just going to have to choose: sex or fireworks.''
The Naples authorities have backed the womens' revolt, sending residents text messages with the campaign slogan: "Make love, not explosions".
Vincenzo Sorrentino, a hospital casualty ward doctor and local town councillor who has long been campaigning against illegal fireworks, said that the sex strike was inspired by Lysistrata, by the Greek dramatist Aristophanes. In it the women of ancient Athens refuse to let their menfolk make love to them until they lay down their weapons and make peace with Sparta in the Peleponnesian War.
"This is an issue that men are particularly sensitive to,'' Dr Sorrentino said. ''We've tried everything to stop the mayhem caused by fireworks but we've never achieved the results we hoped for. We decided to get women involved because they are more convincing and they always achieve their goals.''
Italians spend an estimated 60 million Euros (£576 million) on new year fireworks, many of them made and sold illegally. Since 2000 fireworks have caused four deaths in the Naples area and five hundred serious injuries.
Dr Sorrentino said that the campaign to stop Naples men letting off dangerous fireworks would be "long and difficult," but local soundings suggested the sex strike was already having an effect. ''The idea of no sex is not exactly popular," he said.
Mrs Staiano said her local parish priest had contacted her to say that he too was supporting the campaign "as an effective way of protecting families". She said her message to women was "tell your husband or partner that if he prefers fireworks to you he can sleep on the couch".