May 16, 2022

More surrogate mothers jailed in Cambodia

Some freed provided that they raise children as their own

Children in Phnom Penh / by Ronny Sison on Unsplash

Cambodia is continuing to jail surrogate mothers. Three women were charged with human trafficking last week. After being detained in Vietnam they had been handed over to Cambodian authorities, allegedly carrying babies for foreign nationals. If convicted, they could be jailed for as long as 20 years.

One of the women has already delivered her baby.

Cambodia hastily outlawed surrogacy in 2016 after Thailand also banned it. Since then, dozens of women and some surrogacy agents have been arrested.

But the rewards are high for women who are willing to take the risk, or who are desperate. Surrogates told Reuters that agents offered them US$10,000. This is more than six times the average annual salary in Cambodia. .

“The effect of the law should be to focus on the perpetrators and agents of surrogacy, who are often men, not the women who carry the children,” Chak Sopheap, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told Reuters. “The possibility that these women were coerced or driven by poverty to become surrogates is high.”

In December 32 women were released on bail and in April  another 11 – on the condition that they raise the child as their own.

Cambodian authorities take a dim view of surrogacy.

Chou Bun Eng, of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking, told ABC News that commercial surrogacy was buying or selling children and was therefore human trafficking. “They hide the baby in the womb and deliver them or bring them across borders,” she said.

“As the woman who gives birth to the baby, she’s the mother. And if she gives up [her child], she’s violating the law of a mother’s responsibility, and if she’s involved in selling her own infant to others, she will be punished,” she told the Phnom Penh Post.

Sam Everingham of Australian-based Families Through Surrogacy says that Cambodia’s current policy is nonsense: “To compare child-trafficking to surrogacy is an ignorant and far-fetched comparison.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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