The Hague Conference on Private International Law’s Council on General Affairs and Policy met on 6–8 March. The agenda included making decisions on the parentage/surrogacy project launched in March 2015. Last February, the expert group responsible for studying the project submitted a report that recommended setting up the following:
- A general instrument of private international law to deal with recognizing foreign judicial decisions on parentage.
- A separate protocol to deal with recognizing foreign judicial decisions on parentage resulting from international surrogacy agreements.
The final decisions will be made during the Council of Diplomatic Representatives’ meeting on 28 May.
Juristes pour l’Enfance (lawyers for childhood) points out that these decisions will have a “considerable impact”, since “it will be the first time an international body has interfered in how surrogacy, a “contested and highly questionable” activity, operates.
The effect of these international mechanisms will be to “bypass the responsibility of national parliaments” in drafting laws affecting a nation’s very identity: parentage, nationality, etc. “By regulating trade in unborn children in the same way as it regulates trade in goods and services, as well as cross-border travel, The Hague Conference would therefore risk breaking with the spirit of moderation and balance that has made its reputation. It would also […] send out a dangerous signal to the entire human race”.
Although France was involved in drawing up these documents, the position of its representatives is unknown. Juristes Pour l’Enfance is asking the French Government to “formally oppose [The Hague Conference] continuing its work” on surrogacy and for the Conference to be more transparent. This is because “what is at stake in the Conference’s work to normalize surrogacy is incompatible with the opacity shrouding it thus far”.
At the same time, Manif Pour Tous (protest for everyone) and ADF International organized an event about the dangers of surrogacy on 6 March. This event was held on the sidelines of the 40th ordinary session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. “Surrogacy is a breeding ground for abuse, human trafficking and modern slavery. Women in the poorest countries are often forced to sell their bodies so that wealthy foreigners can buy themselves a child. International mechanisms must be set up to eradicate this practice, which has destructive effects on everyone involved,” said Lois McLatchie, one of the speakers and a legal analyst at ADF International.
In 2018, the special rapporteur on the sale and exploitation of children referred to surrogacy in his report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, acknowledging its potential violations of human dignity. However, the conclusion states that a legislative framework should be enough to avoid them. Since then, many human rights defenders have expressed their concerns, which include “the trafficking and trivialization of children and women, bioethical concerns, public health issues and legal matters”.
For Ludovine de La Rochère, president of the Manif Pour Tous, “surrogacy, whether commercial or not, is always a form of modern slavery and should be banned. We must ban it, not regulate it. “A woman’s body was never designed to carry another woman’s baby. We must remember that surrogacy is a great medical risk for the mother,” added Jennifer Lahl of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network. Sheela Saravanan, an independent gender and health researcher, explained that “in India, trafficking adolescent girls for surrogacy uses a network previously established to traffic girls for domestic service and the sex trade”. Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, pointed out that surrogate mothers are “often in a socially vulnerable position”, and are “exploited by the many people involved”. Furthermore, they often find themselves “in a situation of legal uncertainty”. “Surrogacy is a real threat to society because it undermines the family and commercializes the most vulnerable people,” he added.
 An association defending children’s rights.