Senators in Italy have proposed jail terms for gay couples who use surrogates from abroad to have children.

Amid a debate around same-sex civil unions in the country, a group a senators proposed the prison sentences for gay couples who use overseas surrogates.

Catholic senators from the ruling Democratic Party tabled the amendment to a draft bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

The amendment suggested that gay couples should have to prove that they had not used an overseas surrogate if they have children.

If they cannot prove it, the non-biological parent to the child would be barred from adopting it.

It would also give judges powers to take the child into care, and put them up for adoption.

Prison sentences for the ‘offence’ of using a surrogate to have a child are proposed at up to two years, and fines of up to €1 million.

Speaking to the Italian edition of the Local, Gabriele Piazzoni, the national secretary of rights group Arcigay, said the move was “indecent”.

He said: A law intended to recognise rights cannot be transformed into a criminalising one that talks about prison.”

The bill for civil unions, introduced by Premier Matteo Renzi’s Government, will be debated on 28 January in the Senate.

Although it faces fierce opposition in the Catholic country, it is expected to pass.

However supporters of measures for civil unions or same-sex marriage, say they fear amendments will be added to sabotage or water down the legislation.

Italy remains as the last Western European country which has no legal recognition for cohabiting same-sex couples.

Justice Minister Andrea Orlando has said Italy must introduce same-sex civil unions to be compliant with the Strasbourg court.