Gay couples in Russia who have become parents via surrogacy, may face arrest under baby trafficking laws.
Commenting on a long-running criminal case to state media, a source in the country's State Investigative Committee equated LGBT+ surrogacy to baby trafficking, according to the Independent.
'We plan to arrest a number of suspects, single men, and Russian citizens, who have used surrogate mothers to give birth to children' the source told Russian state media. The statement has not been confirmed or denied by the Kremlin.
The crackdown appears to come after a baby died in Moscow in January while waiting for paperwork for the parents to take their child home to the Philippines. No evidence has been presented that the cause of death was anything but natural.
Seven people have been imprisoned in relation to the death, including medical staff and lawyers involved in facilitating surrogacy. Three infants have also been taken into care.
According to the source, at least ten more unmarried men who are fathers through surrogacy are being targeted for arrest, and that their children will be taken into care homes. Lawyers and medical staff involved in surrogacy may also find themselves in custody.
Lawyer Igor Trunov, who is representing the parents whose children have already been taken, said that his clients plan to sue the Russian state for abduction. He accuses investigators of connecting baby trafficking with sexual orientation after public opinion initially opposed the arrests. 'They understand no-one is going to stand up for gays,' he said.
Under Russian law, single women and heterosexual couples may access surrogacy and fertility treatment, although single men becoming parents via surrogacy is not expressly permitted or prohibited. Russian court decisions since 2010 have accepted single men as fathers of surrogate-born children, but the source from the State Investigation Committee asserted that it was an offence for men with 'non-traditional orientation' to provide sperm for IVF.
Although this has caused concern amongst Russia's LGBT+ communities, activist Igor Kochetov has said this may just be an initiative of the State Investigation Committee, rather than that of the entire Russian government.