The New Type of Human Trafficking: Surrogacy

Surrogate mothers pose for a photograph inside a temporary home for surrogates provided by Akanksha IVF centre in Anand town, about 70 km south of Ahmedabad August 27, 2013. REUTERS/Mansi Thapliyal/Files

By Isaac David Pinto, Amnesty International Sciences Po Campus de Menton


We often hear about the sexual trafficking of women, children, and even men, and many people believe this is all that human trafficking is. But, in today’s world, there is a problem that goes vastly underreported: surrogacy.

Modernity has brought with it many possibilities, including the ability for single women to have, homosexual couples to adopt, and couples with reproductive problems can now hire someone to carry their child in a practice called surrogacy. But, as is the case with most progress, good can be coupled with bad. The same practice that allows couples physically incapable of producing offspring to have children, surrogacy, can also be a method of human trafficking.

In today’s world, the practice of surrogate pregnancy has become a commercial enterprise which has created scandals of humiliation, exploitation, abuse and in which human life is sold abundantly. To hide the brutal nature of these transactions, those who participate in this practice disguise it as altruism; they claim it is out of friendship or altruism. What makes this suspicious is the fact that some of these cases occur, for example, between European or North American “intentional parents” and a “pregnant persona” (note the avoidance of the word “mother”), from India, Ukraine, Nepal, Mexico, or other developing nations. It is difficult to prove that this relationship is truly altruistic, as it occurs between people who have never had a true human bond. If this practice was truly altruistic, as it is touted to be, it would more likely occur between families and close friends than between rich families and poor peoples with whom they have never had contact.

It is important to emphasize that this is an ethical issue firstly. It is a debate between desire and right. The desire that people have to raise children, and the human rights of children and mothers. Because of its importance and its implications, this issue should be on the agenda of all political movements that seek human rights. The arguments to oppose the practice are not emotional, but, rather, political and innately human. In law, there are some key points to condemn it, the most decisive of which being that the mother is subjected to an abusive contract that obliges filial renunciation. No regulation or legislation in action today that claims to guarantee the rights of these pregnant women questions the fact that they are required to renounce the filial right.

It is also necessary to avoid the notion that these women are objects, mere vessels for the children. The driving agencies of this practice will often refuse to use a vocabulary that recognizes the existence of a mother.

In the vernacular, the terms “surrogate motherhood”, “surrogate pregnancy”, and “maternity” have been replaced with “pregnant persona” so that the term “mother” does not appear at all. Another vocabulary trap is that these parties avoid referring to “pregnancy” and promote the concept of “assisted reproduction technique”, which completely dehumanizes the process. The aforementioned agencies will even subject the “pregnant women” to psychotherapies to avoid any sentimental attachment with the child.

It is fundamental that we understand that there are thousands of children today that are built upon these practices, and while these children may not be aware of their situations, many of them will be deprived of their right to meet their birth mothers.

It is in our hands to halt the proliferation of such injustices in the future.

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