Page URL:

UN call to stop criminalisation of surrogates in Cambodia

18 November 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1024

The UN has called on Cambodia to repeal the criminalisation of surrogates. 

Cambodia outlawed commercial surrogacy in 2016, following similar bans in India, Nepal and Thailand (see BioNews 915). Last year 30 pregnant surrogates were imprisoned for 'cross-border human trafficking' because they were carrying children for, predominantly Chinese, intended parents. They have since been released on the condition that they raise the children themselves. 

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) condemned the decision, raising concern that 'such an obligation creates an additional financial and emotional burden on women who are in precarious situations, which led them to act as surrogates in the first place.' 

In addition to not receiving the $10,000 they were promised, the women must now raise an unplanned child and 'face discrimination and stigma from their families and communities for having acted as surrogates.'

The Cambodian government argues the arrest of the surrogate mothers themselves was necessary to protect the rights of the unborn children, and that the women were fully aware they were committing a crime and therefore had to be held responsible.

'[The women intended to] exchange their children for money. To bear a child and then sell it is very inhumane,' said Chou Bun Eng, the Secretary of State and Permanent Vice Chair of the National Committee for Counter Trafficking of Cambodia (NCCT). 

Conversely, CEDAW considers the women victims, as the current legislation does not 'take into account the unequal relations between the parties to a surrogacy arrangement,' and forms part of more general discrimination against women in Cambodia.  

At present, there are no legal or financial consequences for the Chinese clients, highlighting the need for international regulations.

'Surrogate women in Cambodia are likely to be at the sharp end of various economic and political hardships that caused them to make the decision to become a surrogate,' Chak Sopheap, Executive Director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights told Voice of America.

UN Reiterates Call to Abolish Criminalization of Surrogates
Voice of America |  13 November 2019
UN women’s rights experts issue findings on Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, and Seychelles
United Nations |  11 November 2019
Women's rights situation in Cambodia still a concern
New Straits Times |  15 November 2019
21 October 2019 - by Dr Katia Neofytou 
This September, news broke of the dismantling of an organised crime group involved in illegal adoptions, egg-selling and commercial surrogacy in Thessaloniki, Greece...
10 December 2018 - by Dr Eleanor Lynam 
Thirty-two Cambodian women charged with human trafficking for acting as surrogates have been released on bail on the condition that they keep the children...
19 November 2018 - by Dr Melanie Krause 
A total of 18 people, including 11 pregnant women, arrested in Cambodia have been charged with offences relating to human trafficking for allegedly engaging in surrogacy for foreign couples...
16 July 2018 - by Dr Melanie Krause 
At least 32 pregnant Cambodian women have been charged for involvement in human trafficking...
2 July 2018 - by Dr Sam Sherratt 
Police in Cambodia have discovered 33 pregnant women who were working as part of an illegal surrogacy operation in Phnom Penh...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.