Police raided a house in the capital arresting the women for human trafficking and acting as intermediaries for surrogacy. Some of the women gave birth behind bars. If they tried to sell their babies, they could be tried and get at least 15 years in prison.
Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Cambodian authorities have released 11 surrogate mothers on bail, after they agreed to keep their children, the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee announced yesterday.
The 11 women were taken into custody in November for human trafficking and acting as intermediaries for surrogacy agents after police discovered them in a raid on a house in the capital Phnom Penh.
The women, who have been in jail since the raid with some giving birth behind bars, have refused to tell authorities whose babies they were carrying, noted Chou Bun Eng, vice-president of the National Anti-Human Trafficking Committee.
“They were released on bail last month after they promised not to give up their babies,” she explained, but they could be prosecuted at any time if “they sell the babies”.
Rights groups have criticised authorities for coercing women to raise babies who bear no biological ties to them to avoid jail time.
But for Chou Bun Eng, Cambodian law means they must take care of the babies. “They are the mother of the children,” she said.
In December, another 32 Cambodian women paid to carry babies for Chinese clients were released on bail after agreeing to keep the children. If they do not, they could get at least 15 years.
Cambodia banned commercial surrogacy in 2016, but the country remains a popular destination for infertile couples – mostly from China – seeking to have children, and willing to pay between US$ 40,000 to US$ 100,000 for a Cambodian woman to carry their child in her womb.
Surrogates are typically from poor communities and receive a fraction of the sum paid to agents – typically between US$ 10,000 and US$ 15,000 – to carry a child to term.