Women are released after agreeing to keep their children. Although renting wombs has been illegal since 2016, Cambodia remains a popular destination. “There is a close relationship between girl schooling and surrogacy abuse,” says Fr Alberto Caccaro.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – Thirty-two Cambodian women are out on bail after they accepted to keep and raise the children they had agreed to bear for Chinese customers. Police had arrested them following a crackdown against surrogate motherhood.
If they fail to uphold the condition, they will get at least 15 years in prison, noted Pon Samkhan, general secretary for the National Committee for Counter-Trafficking. The last group of 17 was freed on 5 December.
"It is appropriate that these women were released because I think that surrogate mothers should not be the target,” said Fr Alberto Caccaro, a priest at the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), speaking to AsiaNews.
“Traffickers – brokers, agencies, corrupt officials and the Internet – should be the targets,” added the missionary, who worked in Cambodia from 2001 to 2011, and then again since 2016.
"In 2001-2002, when I had just arrived in Cambodia, as I travelled around the country and met other priests, I found that a barren woman could easily find a large family, willing to give her a baby.
“I remember that at the time the fee could be as little as 50 US dollars. However, the context was not that of buying and selling. Paradoxically, at the time it was almost out of sympathy."
For Fr Caccaro, the business of renting wombs is helped by the problem of school dropout, which is widespread among Cambodian girls. "It would be interesting to find out what education these women got,” said the clergyman.
“Often, girls drop out of school too early, especially in rural areas. When the most fragile young people stop going to school, they wait to be married or end up being exploited by trafficking networks.”
"There is a close relationship between girl schooling and surrogacy abuse. For this reason, we missionaries pay close attention to women’s education, so that they can protect themselves against exploitation.”
"A few weeks ago, I heard about a young woman who went to China to get married. The family got about three thousand dollars. Such low fees make deals easier. People need cash urgently in a country blinded by the mirage of modernity. Despite laws, measures and policies, Cambodia remains vulnerable."
Commercial surrogate motherhood has been illegal since 2016. However, Cambodia remains a popular destination for barren couples who want children. In 2017, an Australian nurse and two Cambodians were arrested for running an illegal surrogacy clinic.
In its latest raids, Cambodian police arrested 11 pregnant women and four go-betweens last month.