Surrogate parents should be treated as sex offenders, Italy’s Interior Minister said on Wednesday. Angelino Alfano is opposed to all forms of surrogacy, but his comments referred to a proposal to allow same-sex couples to collectively adopt their stepchildren.
“We want wombs-for-rent to become a universal crime, which is punished with a jail term, just as happens for sex crimes,” he told Avvenire, Italy’s mainstream Roman Catholic newspaper.
Italy is the only country in Western Europe which does not offer legal protections to same-sex unions. As a consequence, only one partner in a same-sex relationship can have parental rights. That makes it difficult for one partner to be be able to pick up a child from school or make decisions regarding medical care. To circumvent the challenge, some individuals have adopted the children of their partner through what is referred to as “stepchild adoption.”
Alfano harsh words for the work-around same-sex couples have been forced to rely on in order to jointly raise a child.
“Stepchild [adoption] really risks bringing the country closer to wombs-for-rent, towards the most vile, illegal trade that man has invented,” the head of the New Center Right Party said.
Surrogacy of all kinds is illegal in Italy. It carries steep fines and up to two years in prison. Due to legal loopholes, however, couples who travel to other countries to parent children through surrogate mothers are not prosecuted when they return to home.
“Stepchild adoption is a situation which already exists [for same-sex Italian parents],” said Mario Colamarino, who heads Circolo Mario Mieli, a gay rights association.
Due to the limited options for legal recognition of same-sex parents, however, he said, “We see children without rights.”
The rights of same-sex people has been a deeply divisive issue in a country which is still hugely swayed by Roman Catholic teachings. In July, the European Court on Human Rights ruled that Italy violates the right to a respected private and family life by not allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions or marriages.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promised to legalize civil unions before the end of 2015. Infighting between his ruling coalition on the topic kept any decisions from being made on the issue. The bill, which includes the provision for unmarried partners to adopt their stepchildren under certain circumstances, will return to the Italian Parliament later this month.