Surrogacy is like sex crime - Italian minister Alfano
Surrogate parents should be treated like sex offenders and sent to prison, Italy's interior minister has said.
Angelino Alfano's staunch opposition to surrogacy is part of a wider campaign by the minister against rights for gay and unmarried heterosexual couples.
Surrogacy is "the most vile, illegal trade that man has invented," Alfano told Italy's Avvenire newspaper.
Italy is the last major Western nation to deny same-sex couples rights on issues such as parenthood.
It was condemned last year by the European Court of Human Rights for failing to legislate on the issue.
Surrogacy is currently illegal in Italy, punishable by fines and up to two years in prison.
Mr Alfano's suggestion that the practice be classed in the same bracket as sex offences would entail harsher punishments.
His small New Centre Right party (NCD) - a junior partner in the ruling coalition - opposes any form of surrogacy, claiming it subverts traditional family values.
"Stepchild [adoption] really risks bringing the country closer to wombs-for-rent, towards the most vile, illegal trade that man has invented," he told the Roman Catholic newspaper.
"We want wombs-for-rent to become a universal crime, which is punished with a jail term. Just as happens for sex crimes."
Some Italian couples have used surrogates abroad, but the status of their children is legally shaky and has led to prolonged battles in the Italian courts.
Centre-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had promised to legalise civil unions before the end of 2015 but coalition infighting has meant that no action has yet been taken.
The contested bill is due to return to parliament on 26 January, with most of the tension focused on whether unmarried partners should be allowed to adopt their stepchildren under certain circumstances.
Proponents of the plan say this would protect the rights of a child if its natural parent died. Opponents such as Mr Alfano say it would open the way for gay couples to seek children via surrogate mothers.