Few Cambodians are aware of surrogacy, the process of carrying and delivering a baby for a childless couple, and many of us may consider it strange that such a thing exists.
Lift, however, knows that Cambodian couples have rented women to act as surrogate mothers.
But because Cambodians are reluctant to talk about this issue, childless couples and a surrogate mother refused Lift’s request for comment.
An article on freepress.org on March 2 this year said police in Thailand had investigated an international “efficient embryo refining” syndicate after discovering 15 women who had allegedly been inseminated and kept in a house during their pregnancies so an internet company could sell their babies.
The company, apparently based in Taiwan, had surrogate homes in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Women who wanted to earn an estimated $5,000 as surrogate mothers were asked on a job application if they had a “double-fold” or “single-fold” eyelids, and if their eyes were big, small or “general size” because some customers were concerned about how their baby’s eyes would appear, freepress.org reported.
In Taiwan, surro-gacy contracts are illegal, and in Thailand commercial surrogacy conducted through websites is illegal.
India, however, legalised surrogacy in 2002 and is emerging as a leader in international surrogacy. It is much simpler and more cost-effective in India than anywhere else in the world.
Dr Rohit Gutgutia, the medical director of Neotia Healthcare Initiative Limited, in Kolkata, says that with the increasing awareness of artificial reproductive technologies, the number of queries about surrogacy is increasing day by day.
Gutgutia says his centre deals with one or two surrogacy cases every month, and between eight and 10 couples a month enquire about surrogacy options.
“But when properly counselled, they realise there are other treatment options they weren’t aware of,” he says.
“For this reason, the number of couples medically suited for surrogacy is much lower than the number of couples enquiring about surrogacy.”
Genome The Fertility Clinic, in Kolkata, has also experienced a surge of interest in surrogacy.
I can afford to pay the surrogate mother only $5,000, and I need a healthy woman below the age of 30
It has dealt with between 18 and 20 surrogacy cases, and a lot of counselling for surrogacy, during the past couple of years, according to a medical expert from the clinic.
Having seen other couples succeed in finding surrogate mothers, Rinki Das, 30, from the Howrah district, and her husband discussed it with their doctor.
A couple of months ago, they began looking for a woman who could be a surrogate mother.
“I can afford to pay the surrogate mother only $5,000, and I need a healthy woman below the age of 30,” Rinki Das says.
Websites have become the place for childless families living in Kolkata to post information on finding surrogate mothers.
Rohit Gutgutia explains the consequen-ces for the surrogate mother: pregnancy is always a potential risk, and there are issues such as nutritional, vitamin and iron deficiencies.
He says surrogate mothers must be healthy, with a maximum of one or two children of their own.
But some members of the medical profession in India consider surrogacy to be unethical.
Rajib Haldar, a director of the Child In Need Institute, in West Bengal, says:
“Surrogacy is an offshoot of denial of womanhood and child rights. Society is increasingly moving towards commercial-isation of the human body and life itself.”