Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, tells Hai quan Cuoi tuan (Customs Weekend) about her concerns since surrogacy became legal in Viet Nam.
What's your position on legal surrogacy in Viet Nam?
The 2014 Law on Marriage and Family (revised) allows surrogacy in Viet Nam. This involves civil relations between two parties. One party provides the demand, while the other is willing to offer the service. Many complicated issues are expected to arise from these relationships, calling for intervention from relevant authorities.
Firstly, what happens if a woman paid to become a surrogate mother later decides she does not want to go ahead with the deal? Secondly, what happens if disputes arise because the agreement between the two parties is not clear and satisfactory? Thirdly, what happens if during the pregnancy the surrogate mother suffers from complications which could seriously affect her health?
If the family of the surrogate mother decided to take a surrogacy matter to court, it would be difficult for authorities to settle the case as Viet Nam does not have a specific law on surrogacy.
In addition, the 2014 Law on Marriage and Family requires a surrogate mother to be a relative of the other woman. This demand is difficult to meet in Viet Nam as each Vietnamese couple now have just one or two children.
In addition, the surrogate mother is legally required to have a certification setting out the relationship with the other woman. This poses a problem for the would be surrogate. In my experiences, few people would qualify.
Before surrogacy was legalised, many couples purchased their surrogate babies through mediators. Do you think the new law will help to eliminate this practice?
I think, legal surrogacy in Viet Nam is an indication of a humanitarian policy. However, if we look at the issue through social lenses, rich people have more opportunity to benefit, not poor people. In other words, only rich people can have their children through surrogacy while poor women have to rent their wombs for money. And the most benefited people in these case are mediators.
This is why it is important to have specific regulations to punish mediators who try to earn money illegally. If we don't take action, I am afraid the consequences could become uncontrollable.
Quite a few people have expressed anxiety that children born from surrogacy will have psychological problems. What's your position?
When a child discovers he/she is a surrogate baby, it is easy for them to get a psychological shock. We have to face that reality. In other countries, confidentiality is required for the parents.
However, you cannot hide this needle in a haystack. So, it is up to the parents to choose an appropriate time to tell the child the truth. Meanwhile, some parents take steps to pressure the surrogate mother to stay away from the child.
In your opinion, what management methods should be applied to avoid mishaps?
The law must be managed strictly. However, in reality, in many localities, surrogacy has already been misused and become commercialised. So, if we accept surrogacy for humanitarian purposes, we also should accept it for commercial purposes. This will enable us to settle disputed cases when they occur.
In addition, we should improve conditions for women to become surrogate mothers. Of course, in this matter, it is important to have the engagement of lawyers in the process of writing the contracts. When disputes are reported, they must be settled by authorised agencies.
Last but not least, it is very important that the surrogate mother's health insurance must be covered in the contract. — VNS