Women seduced by the chance to escape poverty explain how they have gone from being treated as victims to criminals
Sopheap* coos as she cradles her newest grandson, only five days age-old. She sets her nose to his head and boozes in his perfume. She searches every bit the picture of the proud grandmother, as her young son and his exhausted wife look on.
But this is not a typical post-birth glowing; their nativity scene is watched over by police guards.
The new mother, Malis *, and her son are prisoners in a infirmary in the suburbs of Phnom Penh with 31 other women, all surrogates hired by a company to deliver babes to Chinese clients.
” I will not give them the baby. I will conjure him myself ,” Malis says.” When I ascertained him, I desired him already .”
Police rounded up the 33 women in late June during a raid on an illegal surrogacy ring. A Chinese national and four Cambodian wives were arrested and accused under Cambodia’s anti-trafficking law.
Cambodia’s health ministry banned commercial surrogacy in late 2016, but a statute is still being drafted. The recent seizures show that service industries continues to thrive in the shadows.
China’s rising infertility rate and the scrapping of its one-child plan have also led to increased levels of Chinese parents attempting out surrogacy options abroad, although the subject remains taboo.
Initially, 32 of the women were placed under the care of the Christian anti-trafficking NGO Agape International Missions. Weeks afterward, the surrogates were arrested and charged with human trafficking.
Now, Malis faces the prospect of raising a child she was paid to deliver- an agreement she entered into because she is impoverished and in debt. Rendering up “their childrens” could necessitate up to 20 times in prison, she fears.
The question now is whether the son belongs to her or the wealthy Chinese parent who is genetically linked to him.” It’s very hard for me. It’s pain for me to think about ,” Malis says, wiping at tears.” I feel sorry for my child, that he must stay in this room with me .”