The fallout from India’s decision to shut down their reproductive tourism industry will likely include desperate patients turning towards Cambodia. But they do so at their own peril:
A booming surrogacy industry chased out of Thailand and Nepal has turned to Cambodia, where many Australians are ignoring warnings from their own government not to seek surrogacy services.
Up to 20 Australian couples have entered into surrogacy arrangements shrouded in secrecy in Cambodia, and many more have been considering the move, according to sources in Phnom Penh and Australia.
The Australian government’s travel advisory smartraveller.gov.au warns the act of commercial surrogacy, or commissioning commercial surrogacy, is illegal in Cambodia, with penalties including imprisonment and fines.
But at least 14 surrogacy clinics and agencies offering services to foreigners have opened in Phnom Penh since Thailand shut down its multimillion-dollar surrogacy industry after the Baby Gammy scandal last year.
Surrogacy groups fear that foreign biological parents and their babies born to surrogate mothers will become entangled in Cambodia’s murky and corrupt legal system, where there are no laws dealing directly with surrogacy and Cambodian authorities could treat surrogacy under draconian human trafficking laws.
They also warn that foreign parents engaging with surrogates in the country without legal protection are putting the surrogates, themselves and any babies they pay for at risk.
Many of the surrogates recruited to carry babies to be born in Cambodia are Thai women bypassing laws that criminalise commercial surrogacy in Thailand, raising the possibility of legal problems blocking parents taking their babies home from Phnom Penh after births.
More than 20 Australian couples were until last night among at least 50 families trapped in Kathmandu, unable to take their surrogate babies home after a Nepalese court outlawed commercial surrogacy in that country.