Justice Ministry to Consider Law on Surrogate Mothers

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana agreed to consider drafting the country’s first surrogacy law during a Friday meeting with Australia’s ambassador to Cambodia, according to the minister’s spokesman.

During a one-on-one discussion, Ambassador Angela Corcoran proposed that Cambodia begin regulating surrogacy before the practice—whereby a couple, often from abroad, pays a woman to carry a baby to term—becomes more popular, ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap said on Sunday.

“The Australia side initiated this idea, but my minister needs to study the possibility,” he said.

“After nine months, a baby would be born and then the baby is brought back to the [country of the] couple,” he said. “But we need to study the legal landscape…like who is the [legal] mother of the baby.”

So far, Mr. Santepheap said, the ministry has received no reports of surrogacy arrangements, but the topic arose during Friday’s discussions because “Australia helps Cambodia in making laws to protect children.”

He said a senior official would soon be assigned to the project.

“If cases happen in other countries, sometime in the future it could arrive in Cambodia,” the spokesman said.

Bill Houghton, director of Sensible Surrogacy, an agency that coordinates surrogacies across the world, including Cambodia, said a few clients of his had begun seeking surrogacy mothers in Cambodia in the past year. Despite the “inherent risks” of the lack of regulations in Cambodia, he said the country was an affordable option.

“Any legislation that supports the surrogate contract and makes it sort of a legally enforced contract, that is of course what we want to see,” he said.

A law would need to protect the rights of the surrogate mother and parents, and ensure custody rights, proper payments and medical care, he added.

Thida Khus, head of women’s rights group Silaka, agreed, saying the country needed a discussion about the rights and potential ramifications of surrogacy.

sothear@cambodiadaily.com, retka@cambodiadaily.com

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