Forty-three pregnant women, charged in connection with two surrogacy businesses in Phnom Penh last year, have been released on bail, a senior official said yesterday.
Chou Bun Eng, chairwoman of the National Committee for Anti-Human Trafficking, yesterday said the women were released in two batches, earlier this year and last month.
“Through the committee’s legal assistance team, the women pledged and convinced the judge that they would take good care of their children,” she said. “They promised not to sell their children for money.”
Ms Bun Eng noted that the 43 women are still under court supervision, meaning that they still face legal action pending an investigation.
“Although they are not placed in prison, their charges still stand,” she said. “If they break their promises or are involved in the surrogacy business again, they will be arrested and placed in prison.”
On June 21, 32 of the women were arrested when police raided a house in Russey Keo district. Five members of a surrogacy ring were also arrested.
On November 8, police raided a home in Sen Sok district housing surrogates and arrested 11 pregnant women and seven others in the house.
Nuth Savna, a general prison department spokesman, yesterday noted that the 11 women were given bail and freed along with about 100 prisoners following royal pardons during Khmer New Year.
Ms Bun Eng said that all 43 women are currently receiving treatment at an undisclosed hospital and the committee will ensure that their children will enjoy proper living conditions after they are born.
She noted that a draft law on surrogacy aimed at addressing the problem is still being debated at the inter-ministerial level.
“It’s a complex issue with regards to human rights and other issues. Relevant officials are at odds over the law due to humanitarian considerations,” Ms Bun Eng said. “The group is still studying laws in other countries to avoid potential problems in the future.”
Phun Puthborey, Women’s Affairs Ministry spokesman, yesterday said the draft law is still under discussion and is being updated continuously.
“The group wants to study recent cases of surrogate businesses in detail since those who were arrested are yet to be convicted,” he said. “I do not have details about the latest draft yet.”