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No surrogacy law likely until after 2018 election: official

A surrogacy mother photographed earlier this year in Kampong Speu province.
A surrogacy mother photographed earlier this year in Kampong Speu province. Heng Chivoan

No surrogacy law likely until after 2018 election: official

A much-needed new surrogacy law might take more than a year to be adopted, an official at the General Secretariat of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking (NCCT) said yesterday on the sidelines of a stakeholder conference.

A senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the topic’s increasing politicisation, explained that while a new law was in the making, its completion might take until after national elections in 2018.

“We’re trying hard, but everyone is busy with elections,” they said. “It’s quite controversial … and politicians don’t want to pass anything before the elections.”

Eang Bunthan, national project manager for the UN counter-trafficking agency UN-ACT, echoed this assessment. “We don’t know for sure, but the best guess is: after elections,” he said.

Parents and surrogate mothers were left in a limbo when a Ministry of Health directive in October seemed to ban commercial surrogacy without prior warning.

The NCCT official declined to indicate whether surrogacy would be legal or illegal under the new law.

She argued that “we can see that the baby becomes a sales product”, saying some contracts even stipulate that future parents are not obligated to take a child born handicapped.

As an interim measure, the official said they will continue to rely on existing Cambodian criminal and civil law, which stipulates that the woman giving birth is considered the mother.

Last month, an intra-ministry working group submitted a paper to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for recommendations on how to proceed until a new law was passed.

Suggestions in the paper set out that bringing babies out of the country could be lawful if this was in the best interest of the child, that new cases needed to be prevented, and that a draft law should be adopted as soon as possible.

According to the official, the husband of a surrogate mother would be registered as father of the child under Cambodian law. If she was not married, the foreign man could claim fatherhood.

She said they were “quite sure that the prime minister read the paper”, but had “no idea” when he would reply.

She also highlighted that finding a solution for Japanese parents of surrogacy babies was particularly problematic, as Japan prohibits dual citizenship.

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