The Lower House of Italy’s Parliament is set to begin debating a bill that would make homophobic discrimination a criminal offence in the country.

The bill was given the green light late on Monday evening by a parliamentary commission with the votes of Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, and the left-wing SEL group.

As prime minister, Berlusconi was known for being an opponent on LGBT rights.

In March 2011, he declared that gay couples in Italy would never be allowed to marry or have adoption rights.

The year before, when faced with charges of having underage sex with prostitutes at his ‘bunga bunga’ parties, Berlusconi replied:

“I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.”

Berlusconi resigned as PM in November 2011 as Italy battled with mounting economic chaos and soaring debt levels.

Despite facing criminal charges in relation to underage sex with prostitutes and a potential jail sentence, Berlusconi still attempts to influence Italian politics.

Several Catholic figures within his party are unhappy over proposals to criminalise homophobic discrimination.

They have unsuccessfully called for a government moratorium on the issue.

Italy currently has no protections against anti-gay discrimination in public, in the provision of goods and services or against hate speech.

Same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are currently not recognised and same-sex couples do not have adoption rights.

Gender identity is also not a part of official anti-discrimination legislation.