Online surrogacy services spark debate on legal aspects
The Jakarta Post
Surrogacy, where a woman lends her womb to carry the baby of another couple, has no legal basis in Indonesia. However, that cannot stop the practice from mushrooming, even online.
A quick internet search for “surrogate mother” or the Indonesian term “sewa rahim”, which literally means “womb for rent”, led The Jakarta Post to two sites offering such a service.
The first service is displayed on a Facebook page named “Mediator Sewa Rahim”. There, would-be parents and surrogate mothers are asked to provide their personal details via email, after which administrators of the page would pair up those requesting and those offering the service.
A resident of Medan in North Sumatra — let us call her Ratni — was offering herself as a surrogate mother via this page in December 2012 in exchange for Rp 200 million (US$13,918), which she needed to pay off a loan on her house.
Ratni has asked the Post not to reveal her real name, nor any details about the surrogacy offer.
A major online surrogacy platform is the United States-based websiteFindSurrogateMother.com, which was launched in 2013. As of 2018, the platform has 79 accounts for surrogates in Indonesia.
This pinkish-white website allows users to find surrogates based on their religion, ethnicity and more. A disclaimer at the bottom of the site warns users to be mindful of their financial information, personal information and of shady accounts.
Niken, a resident of West Java, is one of Indonesian women who have offered surrogacy services on FindSurrogateMother.com. She is a married woman with two children. Niken said she wanted to help people who could not bear children, because she believed “having a baby is the most wonderful thing”.
According to Article 127 of the 2009 Health Law, in vitro fertilization is permitted; however, it can be conducted only by a married couple. Hence, surrogacy is illegal.
By logical extension, a child born in a surrogacy arrangement would technically belong to his or her surrogate mother, rather than to the couple paying for the service. This can lead to complicated problems as to the legal status of the child.
“It’s a dilemma, because some people need it to bear children, but a lack of regulations can cause trouble in the future,” said Amalia Zuhra, a law lecturer from Trisakti University in Jakarta.
“The practice [of surrogacy] happens, but very secretly. It is done through informal agreements between the two parties or within a family,” Amalia said.
Consequently, there is very little data and information on the practice.
The Indonesian Association for In Vitro Fertilization (Perfitri) has estimated that only 200,000 of around 4 million infertile couples in the country can undergo in vitro fertilization, as reported by kompas.com in 2017.
But one detailed case, perhaps the only one, of an Indonesian surrogate mother is documented by Agnes Sri Rahayu for a 2009 doctoral thesis at Soegijapranata Catholic University. She describes the story of an infertile woman in Mimika, Papua, who sought the help of a doctor in Surabaya to use her sister as a surrogate, as, otherwise, she could be divorced by her husband.
Surrogacy has emerged as a human right issue in Southeast Asia and South Asia, because poor young women are increasingly exploited and trafficked as surrogates, although the practice is prohibited in many countries.
Late last month, Cambodian police found 33 pregnant Cambodian women, reportedly carrying the children of Chinese clients, when they raided two apartments in Phnom Penh. These women had reportedly been promised up to $10,000, around a quarter of the price of hiring a surrogate in the US.
Sista Noor Elvina, a freelance writer currently working on a book on Indonesian surrogacy laws, notes that at least six students have consulted her on the issue between 2014 and 2016.
In an academic paper for Brawijaya University, she argued that the ban on surrogacy contradicts at least three Indonesian laws and three human rights laws, including Article 28B(1) of the 1945 Constitution and Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which stipulate that every Indonesian has the right to bear children and build a family.
“Indonesia should not ban [surrogacy], because to do so is unconstitutional and violates human rights,” Sista said. (nor)
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