The rise and fall of surrogacy in Nepal

30 September 2015

Debra Wilson

Nepal may just be one of the shortest lived destinations on the international surrogacy list as the Supreme Court will consider over the next few weeks whether to permit the practice of surrogacy to continue.

Nepal emerged last year as a potentially popular Asian destination following India’s 2013 limited ban on international surrogacy for single and same sex couples, and Thailand’s recent ban on commercial surrogacy. While there are no laws regulating surrogacy in Nepal, several hospitals report being issued with Government “permits” to engage in surrogacy services.

In September 2014 the Nepalese Cabinet decided to permit international surrogacy (expanding on the 2014 National Health Policy which permitted surrogacy for Nepalese citizens) provided Nepalese were not donating sperm or eggs or acting as surrogates. This reportedly led to an influx of Indian women into Nepal to act as surrogates.

Nepalese tourism received bad press when, following two earthquakes, Israel evacuated 26 and then 6 surrogate born children, many under the age of 6 weeks and at least 9 of which who were born prematurely. The surrogates themselves were not evacuated, and therefore those children without intended parents in Nepal at the time of the quakes were left to be cared for by other Israeli passengers during the flights.

In the last week in August, the Nepalese Supreme Court issued an interim order closing surrogacy services. This order will remain in place for 15 days, at which time it will rule on a petition to ban surrogacy outright. The Nepalese Government will be very busy with a ‘long list of questions regarding the legal rights of the parties involved’ to answer during this time.

Nahakul Subedi, spokesman for the Supreme Court, commented that “there are no laws regarding surrogacy… it raises many constitutional and legal questions… so the court issued a stay order on surrogacy services yesterday… until the case is settled.”

The stay will not affect those who have already begun surrogacy pregnancies, which will be a point of some relief for the 60-80 Australian couples with pregnant surrogates in Nepal. It will affect any future arrangements or pregnancies, which has resulted in the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issuing an advisory “strongly recommend[ing] that commissioning couples not consider surrogacy in Nepal.”

Building on an assumption that the interim order will become permanent, new surrogacy destinations are being sourced, with Canada interestingly emerging as a front runner.