YES, from a feminist perspective, reproductive surrogacy is human trafficking

Press Release
Revision of the European Directive on the Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings

30 April 2024

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims is a necessary and useful text, but it is not enough.
Important additions have been made to the 2011 text: support for victims regardless of their country of origin; identification of the root causes – including poverty, conflict and inequality – that make people, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking;

It clarifies that gender discrimination exacerbates trafficking.
It emphasises the need to take into account the views of children and to adopt a victim-centred approach.
The inclusion of new practices related to trafficking, including surrogate motherhood, is very useful.

However, the text is surprising, not to say worrying, in its incompleteness regarding “surrogate motherhood”. The clumsy wording suggests that surrogacy is not trafficking. The wording chosen, “exploitation of surrogacy”, is confusing and could imply the existence of surrogacy that does not exploit women and surrogacy that does exploit women, with the latter being the one to be prosecuted.

However, given the definition of trafficking (Palermo Protocol), women recruited as “surrogate mothers” are both deceived and coerced, so all surrogacy is trafficking, no matter what term is used to mitigate the violence.

DECEPTION. “Surrogate mothers are recruited deceptively, assured that they will not be the mother of the child they will carry for nine months and that this child will not be sold. Lies exposed by the fact that all surrogates have to renounce their parentage.

COERCION. Surrogate mothers are recruited by means of coercion, be it psychological, familial, social (based on the sexist stereotype that women are generous and ready to sacrifice for any third party) and, above all, economic, since retribution or compensation is an important incentive for them to become surrogate mothers.

The European legislator seems to have forgotten that, according to the Palermo Protocol, “the consent of a victim of trafficking in human beings to exploitation, whether intended or actual, shall be irrelevant where any of the means referred to in paragraph 1 have been used”, i.e. deception and coercion.

Without fear of contradiction, the legislator once again forgets that, from the point of view of children, their best interests cannot lie in being conceived with the aim of being separated from their mother at birth.

However, this directive must ensure that both the EU and the Member States put in place effective means of preventing and combating trafficking, and in particular means of informing and protecting women at risk of becoming victims of trafficking for the purpose of surrogacy.

Until the EU has the courage to protect children who are victims of the surrogacy trade, which has been practised on European soil for more than 15 years.

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