Surrogacy case spotlights dangerous loopholes

17 February 2021 | Local News

JANA-MARI SMITH



WINDHOEK

A Canadian woman's failed attempt to adopt twins born to a Namibian surrogate mother early last year has placed the lack of surrogacy guidelines in Namibia under the spotlight.

The gender ministry recently confirmed that the incident came to light yearly 2020 when the Canadian woman took the twins to home affairs to register their birth.

“The birth could not be registered by the adoptive parents as they are not the biological parents of the twins. That is when the case was referred to the ministry to look into the safety of the twins.”

The ministry added that "one of the twins was already not well, so they were removed to the hospital and later discharged".

Namibia’s child advocate at the Office of the Ombudsman, Ingrid Husselmann, said her office investigated a complaint in connection with the circumstances of the twins’ birth and surrogacy arrangement.

While Husselmann underlined the need for privacy protection, she did confirm that in this case, a surrogate mother gave birth to the twins who were removed from her care and placed with relatives of their biological mother.

“They are now safe and well," she added.

Loopholes

A social worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the current lack of a comprehensive surrogacy law is potentially ripe for exploitation of children and birth mothers.

While none of the authorities could confirm how much the Namibian mother was paid last year, the social worker said it was, to her knowledge, substantial.

She pointed out that in the aftermath, the babies were briefly stuck in no man's land.

“There are no decent guidelines on surrogacy in Namibia. That is a serious problem.”

No crime

In the case of the twins, the breakdown in the surrogacy agreement was not investigated by the police due to insufficient evidence of criminal intent or trafficking.

The gender ministry confirmed that the adoptive parent did consider legal action “to get the kids back, but she later withdrew the case”.

Adverts

The gender ministry pointed out that the Child Care and Protection Act prohibits the publication and advertisement for the purposes of calling upon any person to be a surrogate mother of a child.

Moreover, the Act, through its regulation of insemination and in vitro fertilisation, to a degree, makes provision for the regulation of surrogacy agreements.

The ministry, however, warned that those who engage in surrogacy arrangements "do so at their own risk because there is no legislation to protect all parties".

For hire

Online searches revealed a number of Namibians offering surrogacy services. The details of the women are shielded by pay-walls.

Thirty-four profiles can be found on the website findsurrogatemother.com, in which Namibian women advertise surrogacy services.

One woman writes that she is already a mother of two children, but wishes to help hopeful persons in return for money to fund her education.

On another website, surrogatefinder.com, there are 43 profiles of Namibians.

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