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Experts at UN event on surrogacy: modern exploitation of women and children

Summary

  • Dangers of surrogacy discussed at UN Human Rights Council side-event
  • Experts reiterate dangers posed to women’s dignity through surrogacy

GENEVA (6 March 2019) – Today, La Manif Pour Tous and ADF International hosted a side event during the 40th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the dangers that surrogacy poses towards children and women. The speakers highlighted the controversies around surrogacy as a practice and how it raises questions from a medical and a legal perspective.

“Surrogacy is a breeding ground for abuse, human trafficking, and modern slavery. Often, women in poorer countries are coerced to sell their bodies so wealthy foreigners can buy their children. International mechanisms need to be put in place in order to eliminate this practice which has such destructive effects on all of the individuals involved,” said Lois McLatchie, Legal Analyst for ADF International, who was one of the panellists.

Violations of international human rights law

In 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and exploitation of children addressed surrogacy in her report to the UN Human Rights Council and despite acknowledging the potential violations of human dignity which could arise from it, concluded that if regulated these could be avoided. As a result, multiple human rights advocates have voiced their concerns about the practice and how it affects women and children in particular. These concerns include the trafficking and commoditizing of children and women, bioethical concerns, issues of public health, and legal questions.

“Surrogacy, whether it is commercial or not, is always a form of modern slavery and needs to be prohibited. We need to ban, not regulate it,” said Ludovine de La Rochère, President of La Manif Pour Tous.

Jennifer Lahl of the Centre for Bioethics and Culture Network said, “A woman’s body was never designed to carry another woman’s baby. We need to remind ourselves that surrogacy is a high medical risk for the mother.”

Sheela Saravanan, an independent researcher on gender and health, said, “Trafficking of teenage girls into surrogacy in India uses the previously established network used for trafficking girls for housemaid and sex work. Women have to sign-off all their rights over the child and their bodies. Also, poor women with poor education and employment opportunities are willing to sign unjust contracts for surrogacy arrangements.”

New safety mechanisms for women and children

The discussants highlighted the dangers of surrogacy but also explored mechanisms for the protection of those vulnerable to them.

“Surrogacy exploits women and treats children as commodities. It poses a serious threat to human dignity and the fundamental rights of all of the individuals involved. The child can become an object for sale and left in legal limbo. Surrogate mothers are also often in a socially vulnerable position, exploited by the multitude of actors involved, and similarly left in a legally uncertain situation. Surrogacy is a genuine threat to society as it undermines the family and commercializes the most vulnerable,” said Paul Coleman, Executive Director of ADF International.

Watch a video of the panel discussion here.

#StopSurrogacyUN

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