Some 100,000 women have joined a protest against Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, accusing him of ‘offending’ women.

The women signed a petition launched by the left-leaning newspaper La Repubblica after the prime minister said that opposition deputy Rosy Bindy was ‘increasingly more beautiful than she is intelligent.’

The remark, made in a telephone call to the show where Ms Bindy was a guest, was perceived as an insult aimed at contrasting her with a number of right-wing ministers and deputies who entered politics after careers in television.

‘This man offends us, stop him,’ reads the petition for ‘women's dignity.’

Former left-wing cabinet minister Giovanna Melandri said of the prime minister, reputedly self-conscious about his below-average height, that he is ‘taller than he is polite.’

The petition drew more than 98,000 signatures, said the daily paper, which has relentlessly chronicled a slew of scandals over Mr Berlusconi's private life since April.

‘By constantly putting the accent on the age of a woman, on her physical looks and not on her human qualities, there's a danger of going back to the time before feminism,’ said signatory Lidia Ravera, a prominent writer.

Mr Berlusconi, 73, has been beset by sex scandals for months, including his relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring model and allegedly entertaining call girls at his parties.

The media mogul, a renowned playboy, has said he has never paid for sex, while admitting that he is ‘no saint.’

Last month he said he believed Italians viewed him as a reflection of themselves. ‘I am interested in the things that interest them, I love football, I smile, I love others and above all else beautiful women,’ he said.

The media tycoon's estranged wife Veronica Lario has filed for divorce saying she could not stay with a man who ‘frequents minors’.