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Cambodia bans commercial surrogacy industry

7 November 2016
Appeared in BioNews 876

The Cambodian Health Minster Mam Bunheng has published a directive appearing to ban all forms of surrogacy in the country.

The 'prakas', a form of ministerial decision, was circulated shortly after Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana described surrogacy as a form of human 'trading' and called for the practice to be prohibited.

The directive, which also governs the management of blood, ovum, and bone marrow, contains a single line stating that 'surrogacy, one of a set of services to have a baby by assisted reproductive technology, is completely banned'. It also bans commercial sperm donation and requires IVF clinics to seek permission to operate.

Questions have been raised about the legal status of the directive, however, along with the lack of clarity over what provision will be made for surrogates who are already pregnant and the failure to identify any legal repercussions or penalties if breached. Cambodian legal expert Sok Sam Oeun identifies this omission as stemming from the fact that while 'a prohibition [against] something must be made by the law', there is currently no law in place which supports the ban.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Phon Puthborey, explained that the prakas was 'a transitional period' while the government explores possible means of stopping potential rights abuses in the industry in order to protect 'women and children [from becoming] victims of trafficking'. Meanwhile Chin Malin of the Justice Ministry told the Phnom Penh Post that the government was currently 'in the process of studying [the matter, so we can start] drafting the law for [the] prevention of surrogacy'.

It is estimated that there are around 50 surrogacy agencies operating in Cambodia, with reports that commercial providers have moved their operations into the country following the prohibition of international surrogacy arrangements in India (see BioNews 824 and 866), Thailand (see BioNews 791), and Nepal (see BioNews 817). Commissioning parents from overseas are also said to be attracted by the lower medical costs and the absence of laws prohibiting surrogacy for single people or same-sex couples.

The Australian Sydney Morning Herald has reported that 'several dozen' Australian families have been attracted by surrogacy in Cambodia. Sam Everingham, global director of the Australian based consultancy group Families Through Surrogacy, told the newspaper that 'scores of Australians will be forced to abandon their embryos in Cambodia, along with their dreams of a family'.

Everingham is critical of the lack of clarity or information the directive provides. While acknowledging that 'every country has the right to determine what medical services it provides to foreign citizens', he said that surrogacy agreements are 'poles apart' from human trafficking and is 'concerned that such a ban has been introduced without any reasonable enquiry by Cambodian authorities into the local industry'.

The lack of guidance in the wording of the directive, and the absence of any national law, means that the impact the ban will have on surrogacy arrangements currently underway, and the status of any resulting children, is at this time unclear.

Australian couples' baby plans in limbo as Cambodia bans commercial surrogacy
The Sydney Morning Herald |  4 November 2016
Cambodia bans booming commercial surrogacy industry
Bangkok Post |  3 November 2016
Cambodia bans surrogate pregnancy: media
Xinhua |  3 November 2016
Ministry of Health Bans Surrogate Pregnancy
The Cambodia Daily |  3 November 2016
Surrogacy ban lacks force of law
The Phnom Penh Post |  4 November 2016
29 August 2017 - by Taqdeer Sidhu 
Commercial surrogacy will be permanently banned in Cambodia if a new law drafted by Women's Affairs Ministry is approved...
7 August 2017 - by Jennifer Willows 
An Australian nurse has been given a prison sentence after being found guilty of running an illegal surrogacy service in Cambodia...
19 June 2017 - by Ryan Ross 
The trial of a nurse accused of running an illegal overseas surrogacy service began in Cambodia last week...
28 November 2016 - by Ryan Ross 
A fertility nurse in Cambodia has been arrested for her involvement in the commercial surrogacy industry, following a recent crackdown by authorities...
14 November 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The Irish High Court will hear a case in January to determine the legal status of a child born through an international surrogacy arrangement to whom the intended parents have no genetic connection...
17 October 2016 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a human rights organisation, has voted to reject a proposal to introduce international guidelines on surrogacy and children's rights...
30 August 2016 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
The Indian government is considering a bill to ban commercial surrogacy, which will only allow Indian couples married for at least five years to use surrogacy.
21 December 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
The legislature in the Mexican state of Tabasco has voted to prevent foreign couples and gay men from having children via surrogacy...
19 October 2015 - by Kirsty Oswald 
India looks poised to introduce surrogacy legislation following several developments that could lead to a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy...
1 September 2015 - by Ana Ilic 
An injunction has been issued in Nepal to stop women from carrying surrogate pregnancies on behalf of foreigners...
2 March 2015 - by Sean Byrne 
The Irish Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, has announced there will be new draft legislation to regulate surrogacy in Ireland – five months after surrogacy provisions proposed in January last year were dropped from a Bill currently before the Oireachtas...
23 February 2015 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
Thailand's parliament has passed a law banning surrogacy for foreign couples, after two scandals sparked worldwide attention last year...
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