GENEVA (6 March 2018) – Children face becoming commodities as surrogacy arrangements become more prevalent, and urgent action is needed to protect their rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children has warned.
“There is no right to have a child under international law,” said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, who presented a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Children are not goods or services that the State can guarantee or provide. They are human beings with rights.
“Surrogacy is a growing industry driven by international demand, making it an area of concern for children’s rights and protection. Commercial surrogacy, as currently practised in some countries, usually amounts to the sale of children.”
The Special Rapporteur explained that if a surrogate mother or third party receives remuneration or any other consideration for the transfer of the child, a sale occurs, as defined under international human rights law.
Her comments follow several scandals that have highlighted the abuses that can arise through surrogacy.
“There is an undeniable, urgent need for surrogacy to be regulated,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. “If nothing is done, abusive commercial surrogacy networks will continue to move from one jurisdiction to another.”
Children in international surrogacy arrangements are at a particular risk, and States must protect them despite the different jurisdictions involved and ensure that they are not subjected to discrimination, she said.
“The best interests of the child need to be at the heart of any decision taken in respect to parentage and parental responsibility decisions,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio added. Courts or other competent authorities should be involved in such determinations, as private contracts generally do not provide sufficient human rights safeguards.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted concerns over intending parents from wealthy States engaging surrogate mothers in developing States, which have weak institutions and regulations.
“This practise entails power imbalances and increases the vulnerability of the children and surrogate mothers to various forms of exploitation,” she said.
“Altruistic surrogacy must also be appropriately regulated in order to prevent the sale of children,” added Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio. All reimbursements and payments for the medical costs of surrogate mothers should be reasonable and reviewed by courts or other competent authorities.
With several countries across the world currently reviewing their policies on surrogacy, the independent expert called on States to support initiatives for international regulation.
“Regulation based on human rights principles is essential, and can also inform national authorities as they grapple with the challenges raised by surrogacy,” said Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.
Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio (Netherlands) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2014. She served as Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe between 2002 and 2012. Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio spearheaded the adoption of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. She is the President of the European Federation for Missing and Exploited Children.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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