At a time when Australian parents with Nepal-born surrogate babies have accused the mountain nation of coming in the way of their dream family, a Melbourne-based psychiatrist has reiterated that commercial surrogacy must stay banned in Nepal but urged the Nepalese authorities to guarantee unhindered exit of those whose babies are already born or are in gestation.
Dr Anupam Pokharel, who also writes about social issues concerning Nepal and Nepalese diaspora, told southasia.com.au that although the Supreme Court of Nepal has banned surrogacy, the Australian parents must not be punished because they were simply ‘trapped’ by agents.
When asked whether or not the Australian parents who already have surrogate babies born in Nepal should be allowed to leave with them, the doctor said, “Yes. As they already were ‘trapped’ by the agents or the hospitals there, should not be punished.”
Dr Pokharel questioned as to why should Nepal allow commercial surrogacy whereas other nations are shutting down the industry one after another, “Commercial surrogacy is banned in Australia, now in Thailand and India, why should a weak country like Nepal be made victim of this business without making proper laws?”
According to a latest report by ABC Network, ‘dozens of’ Australian couples have accused the Nepal government of holding their babies ‘hostage’.
The report lamented that the Australian parents who parted with as much as $40,000 to have surrogate babies in Nepal have been left in limbo after the Court recently banned commercial surrogacy. As such, there is still lot of uncertainty around the issue.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is in the know of the situation. “The Australian Government has made, and continues to make, representations to the government of Nepal to address the issue of those families who already have children born in Nepal, and those with children currently in gestation,” ABC quoted a DFAT statement.
The Nepal woes are in addition to the already complicated stories of around 22 Australian couples who are caught in similar legal wranglings in India.
In case of Nepal, much of the problem is on account of the uncertainty as to what would happen to those surrogacy contracts forged before the Nepalese Supreme Court banned the business.
Anti-surrogacy advocates argue that the industry leaves the already vulnerable women prone to more exploitation and harm. “The mothers are likely to develop serious mental health problems like post natal depression. They also may develop infections and anemia. Their future fertility may be affected. They need insurance of some type for a year or two at least,” Dr Pokharel expressed his concern.
As such, he demanded, the doctors and hospitals must immediately cease advertising surrogacy services ‘until a proper law is made’.
Australia has been strongly urging its citizens against entering into any surrogacy arrangements in Nepal.