Will Uganda become a popular destination for surrogacy?
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR SURROGACY IN UGANDA
Uganda’s legal framework does not explicitly regulate surrogacy, i.e. it is neither illegal nor explicitly permitted. However, it is practised informally. Pro-surrogacy movements are calling for it to be regulated, arguing that the current situation provides insufficient protection for surrogates and “commissioning parents”.
Comparison with the Legal Framework in South Africa
“An example used as a reference in Uganda is the South African legal framework for surrogacy (Chapter 19 of the Children’s Act – 2005). “Judicial confirmation of surrogacy agreements is sought before the surrogate mother’s pregnancy commences. If this confirmation is granted, the actions taken to enforce the surrogacy agreement are legal and the agreement itself is enforceable. In particular, in the case of ‘complete’ surrogacy, i.e. where the surrogate mother has no genetic link to the child born as a result of the surrogacy, the child is legally considered to be the child of the intended parents from the moment of its birth.”.
Uganda Surrogacy Bill
Recently, the Ugandan government announced its intention to regulate surrogacy. A bill is currently being drafted and will be presented to parliament in 2023 to create a specific legal framework for surrogacy. It is the brainchild of Ugandan MP Sarah Opendi, a former minister. She says the bill is needed because of the rise in infertility and the need for some women to resort to surrogacy because they do not have the time to have a child themselves.. She agrees with two gynaecologists who run infertility clinics, who cite three main reasons for using surrogates: female infertility, the absence or loss of a uterus, and the desire of stars and sportswomen to avoid the inconvenience and side effects of pregnancy.
Surrogacy has been practiced in Uganda since 2006
One article traces the first cases of surrogacy back to 2006, organised by the first clinic set up in Kampala. From 2006 to 2012, the clinic recorded 50 cases, with an average of 5 client requests per year. 7 years later, in 2019, in a “New Vison TV” report, It announced that 600 surrogate pregnancies had been carried out since the start of its business, demonstrating a rapid increase in demand. The same report counted 6 surrogacy clinics in France. Another clinic, founded in 2013, had already performed 40 surrogacy procedures at the time of the report.
What is known about surrogate mothers?
Very little, but the above report gives important information about how fertility clinics treat them.
For example, one requires them to have already had a child and not to be sexually active during their pregnancy, ostensibly to avoid contamination by sexually transmitted diseases.
The other recruits women who have already had 3 children. At birth, caesarean sections are systematically carried out under general anaesthetic or heavy sedation “so that the surrogate does not hear the cry of the baby she has given birth to”. One of the hospital’s staff recalls the trauma of these women being prevented from seeing the baby, which is immediately passed on to the client couple’s wife.
Surrogate mothers in Uganda often face social stigma, as explained by this surrogate mother who entrusted her children to a boarding school and left her home to avoid the eyes of her neighbors as soon as her pregnancy was discovered.
Search engines with the keyword “on surrogacy in Uganda” seem to present surrogates as if they were objects or products that could be easily selected or purchased. The words of this South African showbiz personality, originally from Uganda, are symptomatic. For her, Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania are all countries where surrogacy is accessible.  and anything is possible if you put your money where your mouth is.
“I’m going to get married soon and my man has one child only. But if it turns out that I don’t want to give birth, there are always other ways. I can use a surrogate. Money can buy anything these days… I would love to have twins; maybe a boy and girl,”4
What do we know about the customers?
Not much either. On the other hand, in the same report, one of the gynecologists talks about the need to prepare clients. They are offered artificial wombs so that they can simulate a pregnancy and avoid questions or criticism from those around them. Treatment is recommended to induce the production of breast milk and to breastfeed the child.
In 2019, according to the same source, the cost of surrogacy will be as follows
|Amounts paid to the surrogate mother in millions of Ugandan shillings||Women’ Hospital International||Bethany women’s hopital|
|Monthly compensation||Sh10.5M||From Sh7.2M to Sh13.5M|
|Payment at birth||Sh6M 1 child
Sh8M 2 children
Sh 10M 3 children
|Sh7M 1 child
Sh9M 2 children or more
The clients have to pay the IVF fees – which range from 18 to 20 million shillings – to the clinic, as well as the delivery costs. By 2023, the minimum wage will be 130,000 shillings per month, or 1.56 million shillings per year.
Trafficking of women as surrogate mothers to China
In 2019, Interpol and the CID Polices Criminal Investigations Directorate (Uganda) dismantled a network of Chinese and Ugandans recruiting women as surrogate mothers for China, with police expressing concern about the fate of women already sent to China.
The ‘HOST MOMS UGANDA’ Project
The ‘Host Moms Uganda’ project, run by a former surrogate mother, targets Western clients and promotes on its website the qualities of Ugandan women “renowned for their fertility and ease of childbirth”. The first twelve clients are from Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. Host Moms Uganda provides essential services to the women it recruits as surrogates: education, healthcare and emotional support, as well as training in a trade. To access these benefits, women must commit to carrying a pregnancy to term as a surrogate mother..
Trafficking in adoption in Uganda
In 2020, a case of fraudulent adoption was uncovered . At the centre of the allegations is a Ugandan lawyer who is accused of using intermediaries to contact vulnerable families living in remote Ugandan villages. These families, often facing socio-economic difficulties, were allegedly persuaded to hand over their children in the hope that they would receive better education or other benefits in the capital, Kampala. Sometimes these benefits included the promise of special programmes in the United States. The network is said to have falsified official documents and exploited some parents’ lack of literacy to force them to sign documents tantamount to abandoning their children. Ugandan and Polish children were then adopted in the United States..
Four Ugandans were convicted, including two judges, a lawyer and her partner.
The Dominic Ongwen case and the charge of forced pregnancy
Dominic Ongwen was a former commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a notorious rebel group in Uganda. He was arrested in 2015 and transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC), where he was charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. The crimes he was accused of included murder, abduction, rape and other acts of violence committed during his time as an LRA commander.
The trial of Dominic Ongwen is particularly significant because it marked a major turning point in the history of the International Criminal Court (ICC). For the first time, the ICC handed down a guilty verdict for the crime of forced pregnancy. This decision is significant in a number of ways. First, the ICC’s recognition and conviction of this crime represents a major step forward in the fight against impunity for serious acts committed in times of conflict. Forced pregnancy is a violation of the fundamental rights of women, who are often victims of systematic sexual violence in times of armed conflict.
It should be noted, however, that the recognition of the crime of forced pregnancy has not been without controversy. Several countries and organisations, including the Vatican, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have opposed the criminalisation of forced pregnancy as such. Their objections are often based on religious or cultural grounds, and they feel that it could interfere with their traditional norms and values. Formal recognition of this crime strengthens the protection of women in wartime by creating a clear legal barrier against this abhorrent practice.
Conclusion: A local surrogacy market now in demand by Westerners
The interview with the two managers practising surrogacy in Uganda shows that the activity initially developed in response to local demand linked to infertility, which was described as increasing, the heavy burden of reproduction on women and the cultural requirement to have a male child. However, one of these managers mentions the production of white children with Ugandan women because, according to the commentary, ‘surrogacy does not affect the genes’, perhaps indicating an emerging demand from Western clients. The technical expertise acquired locally in the practice of in vitro fertilisation has led to the establishment of branches in neighbouring countries and similar developments in surrogacy: Tanzania, Zambia. More recently, the “Hits Moms Uganda” project is clearly targeting foreign clients who are interested in these regions of the world and are looking for low-cost solutions. Politicians are mainly concerned with legislation to prevent the uncontrolled development of the practice. For the time being, voices critical of the practice are not being heard, and human rights organisations do not appear to be concerned about the fate of surrogate mothers and the children born as a result of the practice.
 Performing IVF for surrogacy before confirmation of the surrogacy agreement by the court: a critical analysis of recent case law in South Africa – Donrich Thaldar. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41599-022-01492-y
 NTV Ouganda – https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2028315707291168
 New Vision “ Born from a surrogate” https://www.newvision.co.ug/news/1311947/born-surrogate-mother
 New Vision “ Born from a surrogate” https://www.newvision.co.ug/news/1311947/born-surrogate-mother
 Nairobi News – “Millions Diamond and Zari would have paid someone to carry their baby” https://nairobinews.nation.africa/millions-diamond-and-zari-would-have-paid-someone-to-carry-their-baby/
 The Standard “ In search of twins: Zari reveals she is open to using a surrogate”
 New Vision “Ugandan women sold to China” https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1510175/ugandan-women-sold-china
 Haos Mom Uganda “An Affordable and Ethical Surrogacy Option” https://hostmomsuganda.com/
 Heyreprotect – “Is Africa next?”https://www.heyreprotech.com/p/is-africa-next-/
 Nile Post “US government slaps sanctions against two Ugandan judges over child adoption scam” https://nilepost.co.ug/2020/08/18/us-government-slaps-sanctions-against-two-ugandan-judges-over-child-adoption-scam/
 Office of public affairs. U.S. departement of justice “Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Schemes to Procure Adoptions from Uganda and Poland through Bribery and Fraud”
 Franceinfo – “Dominic Ongwen, l’ex-enfant soldat que la justice internationale n’exonère pas”