Kenya a dangerous country for surrogacy operations, Israel says


Israeli Ministry of Justice’s National Anti-Trafficking Unit has raised concerns about surrogacy procedures in Kenya, Albania and northern Cyprus.

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Israel has listed Kenya as one of the world’s most dangerous countries to visit for surrogacy procedures.

It has warned its citizens to avoid such trips amid growing concerns that the operations border on human rights abuses.

Apparently, many Israelis travel to Kenya for surrogacy procedures.

But a report by the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s National Anti-Trafficking Unit (Natu) has raised concerns about surrogacy operations in Kenya, Albania and northern Cyprus.

The Natu, a social rights division of the Israeli Ministry of Justice, says surrogacy practices in the three countries are carried out in a way that ‘indicates a violation of women's dignity and basic rights, an objectification of women and a restriction of their freedom’.

“The National Anti-Trafficking Unit in the Ministry of Justice wishes to bring to the attention of the public considering the use of surrogacy procedures outside of Israel, relevant information and a warning against carrying out these procedures in the countries of Northern Cyprus, Albania and Kenya,” the Natu document reads.

The report, titled ‘Notice by Natu and information to the public regarding the procedures of surrogacy abroad in Northern Cyprus, Albania and Kenya’, attributes the blatant acts of human rights violations in these countries to weak laws.

Surrogacy is a process in which the male sperm is inseminated into the uterus of the surrogate mother, who then carries the embryo of a child for the intended parents until its birth.

The document states that it has gathered the data from various sources. “Natu feels it is appropriate to bring these serious issues to the attention of the public so that they can consider their steps and avoid procedures that raise both moral and legal issues,’ the report says.

It highlights that weak laws have exacerbated the way surrogacy procedures are carried out in the three countries, noting that in severe cases, there are suspicions of human trafficking —both of the surrogates and of the babies born.

Kenya is one of the few countries open to commercial surrogacy, but it lacks surrogacy laws to regulate the practice and, as a developing country, it offers relatively cheap surrogacy treatment.

Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo has been pushing for a legal framework to regulate surrogacy in Kenya through her Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, but this is yet to be enacted. The Bill died in the 12th Parliament but has been re-published and is now before the National Assembly for consideration.

Clauses 20 to 32 of Ms Odhiambo’s Bill provide for the regulation of the rights of donor parents and children, consent to assisted reproductive technology services, surrogacy, surrogacy agreements, termination of surrogacy agreements, obligations under surrogacy agreements and the prohibition of commercial artificial reproductive technology.

The Natu document notes that in a number of cases, significant concerns have been raised about the involvement of criminal organisations in surrogacy procedures.

This involves the recruitment of “particularly” vulnerable women — those who are old, in severe financial distress, and those who may have mental or developmental disabilities.

The women are then placed under close supervision and effective control during the process, ‘and are subject to threats against them and their families in the countries of origin’.

“There is a fundamental and well-founded concern that in some places, surrogates are forced into prostitution before the fertilisation and pregnancy process, and sometimes even during the pregnancy,” the document says.

It also points out that in the surrogacy contracts signed with the women in Kenya, Albania and Northern Cyprus, there are repeated references to their exploitation and objectification as part of the process.

This raises serious doubts about the free will of surrogates to knowingly enter into these agreements, and even significant concerns about the level of control over surrogates.

The document cites draconian clauses restricting the surrogate’s freedom during the pregnancy, as well as heavy financial penalties in a wide range of cases, restrictions on the surrogate's movement, and waivers of any right to sue.

The document shows that the compensation given to the surrogate for the procedure is sometimes extremely low and that in some cases surrogates ‘receive no compensation at all, but only the most basic reimbursement of expenses’.

“To the best of Natu’s knowledge, the countries where some or all of these problematic indications exist are Northern Cyprus, Albania and Kenya,” the document says of denied compensation.