ROME - Italy's highest court on Tuesday ruled that telling a man he has "no balls" as an insult is a crime punishable with a fine because it hurts male pride in a ruling on a curious row between two cousins.
The case was brought to the supreme court by a lawyer named only as Vittorio against his cousin Alberto, a justice of the peace, for the phrase uttered during a heated courtroom exchange in the southern Italian city of Potenza.
"Apart from the vulgarity of the term used, the expression definitely also has an injurious quality," the male judge, Maurizio Fumo, said in his ruling as quoted by Italian news agency ANSA.
"It refers not only to the target's lack of virility but also to his weakness of character, lack of determination, competence and coherence -- virtues that, rightly or wrongly, are still identified as pertaining to the male gender."
The court also found that because the insult was uttered at the workplace with third parties present it could be seen as damaging Vittorio's reputation.
Vittorio's lawyer had argued that the expression implied that his client was "worth less than other men because he did not have the attributes."
A judge will now rule on the fine that Alberto should pay to Vittorio.
The ruling, which comes after years of legal dispute, did not specify whether any insults against women should now also be considered crimes.