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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Surrogacy ban lacks force of law

A baby born of a surrogate mother sleeps in a hospital. Ishara Kodikara/AFP
A baby born of a surrogate mother sleeps in a hospital. Ishara Kodikara/AFP

Surrogacy ban lacks force of law

Anti-surrogacy advocates have welcomed the government’s recent stance to ban surrogacy in Cambodia, though legal experts have warned that the shady practice could still continue if the prohibition is not enshrined in law.

In a ministry directive, or prakas, signed October 24, Health Minister Mam Bunheng signed off on a total ban on surrogacy. Article 12 of the prakas, obtained by the Post yesterday, reads: “Surrogacy, one of a set of services to have a baby by Assisted Reproductive Technology, is banned completely”.

Bunheng and health spokespeople could not be reached yesterday, but the single line in the prakas did not outline any legal consequences for those who breach the ban.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said this left the ban in a potentially flimsy state. “A prohibition to do something must be made by the law,” he said. A prakas, he added, must be consistent with the law, but there is currently no law outlawing surrogacy.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said he was not aware of the Health Ministry’s directive. “We are in the process of studying [so we can start] drafting the law for prevention of surrogacy,” he said.

Rodrigo Montero, gender adviser with the German development agency GIZ, said outlawing surrogacy was the “right approach” because “surrogacy means supporting the selfish interests of foreigners and of those who want to gain money from this very profitable and unethical business”.

But Sam Everingham of Families Through Surrogacy said the Health Ministry’s position was “likely a response to concerted pressure from Western governments” and added that surrogacy arrangements are “poles apart” from child trafficking.

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