Italy’s government proposes bill to make surrogacy a ‘universal crime’

Italy’s parliament is set to debate a bill that would expand criminal penalties for the use of surrogacy, in what opponents say is part of a broader attack on gay rights by the country’s hard-right government.

Italy's parliament is set to debate a motion that would criminalise surrogacy abroad
Italy's parliament is set to debate a motion that would criminalise surrogacy abroad. Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is lead signatory on the new bill, which would make surrogacy – already a crime in Italy – a criminal act for Italians who make use of the practice anywhere in the world.

The motion combines previous draft laws from the ruling Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia and League parties, and will be debated in the lower house from Wednesday, according to news agency Ansa.

The move comes days after the government ordered the city of Milan to stop issuing birth certificates to the children of same-sex couples on the grounds that the practice violates Italian law.

READ ALSO: Milan stops recognising children born to same-sex couples

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has long been outspoken against surrogacy, which she has described as “a commodification of women’s bodies and of human life.”

In a heated parliamentary debate on the rights of same sex couples on Monday, her Brothers of Italy colleague Federico Mollicone, chair of the lower house’s Culture Committee, said surrogacy was “more serious than paedophilia.”

Similar comments were made in 2017 by a minister of the now-defunct New Centre Right party, who likened entering into a surrogacy arrangement to committing a sex crime.

READ ALSO: ‘Surrogacy is like a sex crime’: Italy minister

In early 2022, as leader of the Brothers of Italy party in opposition to Mario Draghi’s coalition government, Meloni put forward the same motion to make surrogacy a “universal crime”.

The text was adopted by the Justice Committee of the former legislature – a preliminary step before it can be debated in the lower house – last April, but did not go further at the time.

The crime of surrogacy in Italy is currently punishable with a prison sentence of over three years or a fine of between 600,000 and one million euros; penalties that the government is proposing to extend to all Italian citizens who engage in the practice, regardless of where it occurs.

Whether such a law would even be possible to pass or enforce is unclear, and legal experts have dismissed it as impractical. 

“There are no conditions that would justify an expansion of penal intervention of this type,” Marco Pelissero, a professor of criminal law at the University of Turin, told L’Espresso newspaper.

The idea of a universal crime “does not even exist in the legal language,” he said.

But the proposal has aroused fears that, if passed, the law could result in large numbers of same-sex parents whose children were born via surrogates being sent to prison.

“With this law we would be exposing families with young children to criminal law, quite simply criminalising procreative choices made abroad in countries where these practices are regulated,” Angelo Schillaci, a professor of Comparative Public Law at La Sapienza University, told the news site Fanpage.

‘We are aware of how hard this government is working to strip even the most basic rights from same-sex-parent families,” Alessia Crocini, head of the Rainbow Families organisation, said last week when it was first announced that Milan had been banned from registering the children of gay couples.

The move resulted in large-scale protests across the city on Saturday, and Milan Mayor Beppe Sala has pledged to fight the change.

“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view,” he said in a recent podcast interview.

On Tuesday, European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders commented that European Union member states are required by EU law to recognise the children of same-sex couples.

“In line with the LGBTIQ equality strategy for 2020-2025, the Commission is in continuous dialogue with Member States regarding the implementation of the judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union.”

“This also includes the obligation for Member States to recognise” children “of same-sex parents, for the purpose of exercising the rights conferred by the EU”, Reynders reportedly said in response to question about the developments in Milan.

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‘Treated like a dog’: Transgender woman sues over Italian police brutality

A Brazilian transgender woman brutally beaten by Italian police in an attack captured in a video that went viral is suing for torture and bodily harm, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

'Treated like a dog': Transgender woman sues over Italian police brutality

The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, meanwhile confirmed the officers would face disciplinary action over the incident last Thursday in the northern city, while prosecutors have opened an investigation.

In the graphic footage, three police officers can be seen circling the woman, hitting her on the head and ribs with their batons and spraying her in the face with pepper spray as she sits on the street, her hands in the air.

The woman was then forced to the ground, handcuffed and taken away.

Lawyer Debora Piazza told AFP her client, known only by the pseudonym Bruna, was then left injured in a locked patrol car for 20 minutes.

“In that time she had trouble breathing and thought she was dying,” she said.

The woman is suing for torture and bodily harm aggravated by abuse of public office and discrimination, Piazza said.

A Milan prosecutor confirmed to AFP that she was investigating the allegations of police brutality against “a 41-year-old Brazilian transgender woman”.

Piazza said her client was “not at all well, especially from a psychological point of view” after the attack.

Sala said Tuesday the officers would be disciplined while warning against “crucifying the police”.

Daniele Vincini, head of the SULPL police union, told Corriere della Sera newspaper the officers had not beaten the woman to hurt her.

The beatings were “to subdue her”, he said, claiming that she had been spitting blood in their faces and “they did what they could”.

Such overt police brutality is rare in Italy and the incident made headlines in the media for several days.

“I felt like I was treated like a dog,” Bruna herself told the Corriere della Sera daily after the attack.

“I put my hands up, I asked them not to hit me. I was so scared,” she said.