Gay rights activists in Malta have criticised a new IVF law as “unashamedly homophobic” because it denies access to medical services to all but opposite-sex couples.

The new Maltese ‘Embryo Protection Act’ restricts IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) services to “two persons of the opposite sex” who are either “united in marriage” or “in a stable relationship with each other.”

This means that same-sex couples will be automatically denied access to medical services on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The law also criminalises against any person who donates their sperm or eggs outside of these restrictions.

Human Rights advocates Aditus Foundation, and the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) have questioned the relationship between embryo protection and the violation of the human rights of same-sex couples.

Gabi Calleja, MGRM coordinator, said: “We question the compliance of Malta’s IVF law with human rights law, since it seems to ignore legislation and jurisprudence unequivocally stating that all rights and obligations accessible by different-sex couples should be equally accessible and enjoyable by same-sex couples.”

Neil Falzon, director of Aditus, added: “We fail to understand why the government is concerned with what men do with their own sperm, and what women do with their own eggs. As long as no third parties are negatively affected, these are decisions for individuals to take, and not for the state to criminalise.”

The two organisations have branded the IVF restriction as an “unashamedly homophobic law.”

They said: “It is a violation of human dignity by introducing unreasonable and unwarranted intrusions into physical integrity, in its criminalization of egg or sperm donation.”

Aditus and MGRM are now urging the Maltese government “to truly respect, protect and fulfil the rights of all persons irrespective of their sexual orientation and to embrace a more realistic, understanding and indiscriminate notion of ‘family’.”

In June last year, a private member’s bill was introduced in order to amend the country’s Constitution to increase protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mario de Marco, the deputy leader for parliamentary affairs, introduced Proposal 99 as part of the party’s electoral programme.

He noted a study carried out last year which showed that 51% of LGBT people living in Malta felt harassed to discriminated, because of their sexual orientation. The EU average is 47%.

The Maltese Government should welcome the amendment, he said, as it would mean that no law could be discriminatory.

At the end of August last year, MGRM expressed disappointment at a bill to regulate cohabiting couples, which had just been launched in the country.

Earlier in 2012, the Maltese parliament did extend its hate crime laws for the first time to protect citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.