UN Special Rapporteur Maud de Boer-Buquicchio on the sale and sexual exploitation of children has warned that children face becoming commodities as surrogacy arrangements become more prevalent, and urgent action is needed to protect their rights.
"There is no right to have a child under international law," said Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, who presented a report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.
She said children are not goods or services that the state can guarantee or provide. "They are human beings with rights."
"Surrogacy is a growing industry driven by international demand, making it an area of concern for children's rights and protection. Commercial surrogacy, as currently practised in some countries, usually amounts to the sale of children."
The Special Rapporteur explained that if a surrogate mother or third party receives remuneration or any other consideration for the transfer of the child, a sale occurs, as defined under international human rights law, according to a message UNB received from Genevaon Tuesday.
Her comments follow several scandals that have highlighted the abuses that can arise through surrogacy.
"There is an undeniable, urgent need for surrogacy to be regulated," said de Boer-Buquicchio. "If nothing is done, abusive commercial surrogacy networks will continue to move from one jurisdiction to another."
Children in international surrogacy arrangements are at a particular risk, and states must protect them despite the different jurisdictions involved and ensure that they are not subjected to discrimination, she said.
"The best interests of the child need to be at the heart of any decision taken in respect to parentage and parental responsibility decisions," de Boer-Buquicchio added.
Courts or other competent authorities should be involved in such determinations, as private contracts generally do not provide sufficient human rights safeguards.
The Special Rapporteur also highlighted concerns over intending parents from wealthy states engaging surrogate mothers in developing states, which have weak institutions and regulations.
"This practice entails power imbalances and increases the vulnerability of the children and surrogate mothers to various forms of exploitation," she said.
"Altruistic surrogacy must also be appropriately regulated in order to prevent the sale of children," de Boer-Buquicchio said.
All reimbursements and payments for the medical costs of surrogate mothers should be reasonable and reviewed by courts or other competent authorities.
With several countries across the world currently reviewing their policies on surrogacy, the independent expert called on states to support initiatives for international regulation.
"Regulation based on human rights principles is essential, and can also inform national authorities as they grapple with the challenges raised by surrogacy," de Boer-Buquicchio said.