On the advice of our Ukrainian member organisation, Democracy Center, we wrote to President Zelensky asking him to consider banning surrogacuy as the next step after having ratified the Istanbul Convention.
International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood
International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogate Motrherhood
To the attention of Mr. President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky,
Under cover of his excellence Mr. Vadym Omelchenko,
Ambassador of Ukraine in Paris.
Paris on July 13th, 2022
Dear Mr. President Zelensky,
We hope this email finds you well. We would like to express our deep regret for the war situation you are experiencing in your country and to show you our support.
As a women international organization, we welcome with great interest and admiration the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by Ukraine. However, we are extremely concerned about the impact that the war against Ukraine is having on women. As you are aware, more than 90% of refugees fleeing Ukraine are women and children, and 7.1 million internally displaced people inside Ukraine, including women and children in need of medical and mental health care, employment opportunities, adequate schooling for children and shelter and protection from sexual and gender-based violence. The high number of unaccompanied minors, forcibly deported civilians, and the more than 2300 children abducted and forcibly displaced to Russia in violation of the Geneva Conventions exacerbate the situation.
Refugee women without contacts are housed in public dormitories and sports centres, there is a need to go beyond these temporary solutions and develop systemic solutions so that women are not housed in public shelters where they are exposed to poverty and further trauma. There is an urgent need for safe shelter for women. Women and girls are at particular risk during humanitarian and displacement crises, as they continue to suffer disproportionately from discrimination based on gender norms and from gender-based violence. The war in Ukraine affects them specifically and exacerbates pre-existing inequalities; Ukrainian households are largely dependent on women and are in a precarious and highly vulnerable situation due to the severe shortages of food, water, and energy supplies within Ukraine. This situation is made even worse by the loss of jobs and by the shrinking economy.
Rape, sexual harassment, and torture are used by the Russian army as a weapon of war against Ukrainian women. Women make up about 15% of the Ukrainian army (about 32,000 women on the battlefield), women soldiers have been captured in Ukraine, and there are indications that they have been tortured, humiliated, and subjected to sexual violence. Women in non-combatant positions form a second line of defence, take on auxiliary combat activities, crucial logistical activities, and assist in the evacuation of civilians.
The lack of availability and accessibility of adequate gender based violence services for refugee women, including in shelters, is of great concern, and it is essential that the response to this crisis includes gender-based violence prevention and response services.
We would like to draw your attention on the situation of women and children left unprotected by allowing the practice of surrogacy. As you know, every year in Ukraine more than 2.000 children are born through surrogacy. There are about 50 surrogacy clinics in the country. First, the pandemic brought to light the surrogacy and reproductive tourism business in your country, and now the Russian invasion has shown the vulnerability of the most exposed group, surrogate mothers and newborns, leading to situations similar to human trafficking.
Our organisation, ICASM, “International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogacy”, represents more than 41 organisations defending women’s rights, located in 14 countries. Our purpose is to contribute to the adoption of legislation and public policies aimed at the abolition of surrogacy. It is based on feminist values such as equality between women and men, women’s emancipation, and autonomy.
Now that your country is a well-positioned candidate to join the European Union, it is of utmost importance that surrogacy in all its forms is banned and condemned in your country, to ensure the protection of women and children who are subjected to this practice, as well as the independence and autonomy of women, and the respect of human rights.
The right to human dignity is inalienable and non-transferable. This being so, surrogacy constitutes an attack on the human dignity of women and children, as the European Parliament has rightly condemned. It could even be considered a form of violence against women, as it involves sexual, physical, psychological, and economic violence. Surrogacy is morally unacceptable, as it means that one human being can dispose of the body of another human being for a personal interest. There is no place for consent in practices considered contrary to human dignity. Likewise, it cannot be in the best interests of the child to be born, through a risky process, in the womb of a woman other than the one who will raise him or her, to satisfy the desire of one or more persons to have children.
Your country has made a breakthrough by ratifying the Istanbul Convention, we request you to please be consistent with it. It is necessary to consider the seriousness of the issue, giving it the importance it has, to end a practice that violates human rights and the possible dangers that may arise from it. The member of the parliament Iryna Sysoyenko has already taken the initiative by co-authoring a bill to ban surrogacy for foreigners, or at least to prevent it for nationals of states where the practice is illegal. Also, Mykola Kuleba, Ombudsman for Children in Ukraine, is strongly opposed to surrogacy and claims that surrogacy is unregulated and violates children’s rights. On this line, we ask you to advocate for the abolition of the practice, to ensure the fulfillment of human rights within your state. We thank you for your consideration, and we remain at your disposal for any further information on the subject.
Ana-Luana Stoicea-Deram Marie Josèphe Devillers