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Kingdom surrogacy law set to lift burden from ‘victims’

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A surrogate mother in Cambodia, pictured at five months pregnant in 2016. Eliah Lillis

Kingdom surrogacy law set to lift burden from ‘victims’

Hundreds of rights organisations from 18 countries campaigned for “a global ban on women’s womb rental” on Monday during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Exhorting heads of governments to implement a ban on surrogacy and to stop funding UN agencies that advocate its legalisation, they issued a statement which read: “Surrogacy is a serious violation of the rights and dignity of women and children. It is a form of women’s reproductive exploitation and it treats newborns as commodities.”

In the Kingdom, the Ministry of Women Affairs spokesperson Pon Putborei was unable to provide a comment on the statement.

However, he said: “We want to adopt a law that serves the interest of women and children.”

He noted that the Cambodian surrogacy law could reflect on the trending policy in the international stage.

“We don’t encourage Cambodians to become a surrogate for money,” added Putborei.

In March, the Justice Ministry finished the first draft of the Kingdom’s long-awaited surrogacy law.

It is expected to ban the commercial industry but permits altruistic surrogacy – a controversial subject given the latter’s potential for abuse.

In June, Phnom Penh authorities discovered 33 women who were offered up to $10,000 to have children for Chinese clients.

Five were arrested during the raid, including the alleged mastermind of the ring – a Chinese national.

“We are now checking the [first draft of the new law] whether it has covered everything to act as legal frameworks for the recent case."

“We don’t want to put the burden on those women, who were indeed victims in the case, by pressing further charges as possibly stipulated in the law,” said Putborei.

Chan Saron, a programme manager at Chab Dai, said his NGO is one of the supporters of the anti-surrogacy campaign.

He told The Post that his organisation appeals to the Cambodian government to take action against this new trend in human trafficking.

“Chab Dai encourages our members to strongly voice their support towards the campaigning of ‘Global Ban on Womb Rental’ in raising public awareness,” he said.

Of the recent surrogacy ring bust, he said: “The 33 women looked like they were the victims of human trafficking but the court has found them guilty of selling children.”

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) gender advisor Rodrigo Montero advised the government to improve its public information so that all Cambodians know that commercial surrogacy is subject to prosecution.

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