An injunction has been issued in Nepal to stop women from carrying surrogate pregnancies on behalf of foreigners.
The Nepalese Supreme Court issued the order last week as it waits to rule on a petition to ban surrogacy that argues the practice 'exploits' the bodies of impoverished women.
Until now, commercial surrogacy was allowed in Nepal, as long as the surrogate is not Nepalese herself.
'There are no laws regarding surrogacy... it raises many constitutional and legal questions,' said Nahakul Subedi, spokesman for the Supreme Court. 'So the court issued a stay order on surrogacy services yesterday... until the case is settled,' Subedi told AFP.
In April the earthquake in Nepal highlighted the use of Nepalese surrogacy agencies by gay Israeli men (for whom surrogacy is banned in their native country) when Israel airlifted 26 surrogate-born babies out of the disaster zone (see BioNews 800). Many same-sex couples have sought surrogacy in Nepal in recent years, especially after India banned the practice to same-sex parents there.
The injunction will not affect those who have already begun surrogacy pregnancies.
The Supreme Court has ordered the government to respond in the next two weeks to the injunction, and has been asked to reply to a long list of questions regarding the legal rights of parties involved, including the rights and benefits of the surrogate, the citizenship of the child and responsibility of the agencies, among other questions.
Doron Mamet, owner of the Tammuz surrogacy agency, rejected the petition's claim that the surrogate mothers are exploited. 'These are the normal demagogic statements of people who are trying by every means possible to stop surrogacies; they aren't based on any truth,' he told Forward. 'All the surrogate mothers come of their own free choice, after the agreement with them has been examined in depth.'
However, some believe that the intervention could be a positive one. Dana Magdassi, attorney and owner of Lotus surrogacy agency in Nepal, said: 'The questions the judge asks are relevant and legitimate questions – what happens regarding the child's rights, the woman's rights; who makes sure the woman is paid.'
However, Magdassi added to Forward that she is 'optimistic' the court will reject the petition.
Meanwhile, Israel's same-sex surrogacy bill, which was passed by the cabinet on first reading last June (see BioNews 757), has yet to progress through parliament.