Cambodia: Surrogates face a dilemma over accepting forced motherhood or facing prosecution; NGOs voice concerns over their vulnerability

Author: Erin Handley & Kong Meta, ABC News, Published on: 22 May 2019

"Cambodian surrogates face an impossible choice — forced motherhood, or years in prison", 12 May 2019

Sitting cross-legged in pyjamas on the concrete floor of her home, Phalla presses a bottle to a baby girl's lips.

The baby gurgles, fascinated by Phalla's sparkly blue nail polish… After police arrested her and "explained" that she was now the baby's mother, Phalla says she eventually came to see it that way too. "Now when I look at her face, I see my own daughter."…

Commercial surrogacy briefly flourished a few years ago in Cambodia but was outlawed with a snap ban in late 2016, resulting in the arrest of Australian nurse Tammy Davis-Charles and two Khmer associates…

 The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has called for Cambodia to prosecute illegal surrogacy agencies, rather than the women they recruit into "precarious and risky" situations.

"By effectively forcing them to raise a child to avoid prison time, the Cambodian authorities are re-victimising an already vulnerable group," CCHR executive director Chak Sopheap said.

"[They] bring or give the baby to traffickers ... so it seems like they are the ones who join activities with the perpetrators," she said…

In late 2017 when Phalla agreed to be a surrogate, garment workers in Cambodia were earning a minimum monthly wage of $US153 ($218).

But for carrying someone else's child, surrogates are typically promised $US10,000 ($14,000) — five times more than the yearly salary.

Ros Sopheap, from advocacy group Gender and Development for Cambodia, said putting women in a situation where they were forced to raise a child or go to prison left them with no choice and forced them into motherhood, adding that surrogates were often driven by financial need…

Commercial surrogacy is a truly global phenomenon — donor eggs can be sourced in Africa, inserted into the womb of a woman in Asia, and delivered to parents in China or the West…

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