“We welcome this week’s decision of the European Parliament, finally recognising surrogacy as a crime of human trafficking. Moreover, surrogacy is now considered together with crimes as slavery, forced marriage, illegal adoption or exploitation of children. Surrogacy violates human dignity – that of the child as well as the mother – as a form of exploitation that targets the most vulnerable”. This is the reaction of the President of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe (FAFCE), Vincenzo Bassi, following the vote on the implementation of the 2011 Directive on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. That decision was jointly taken by the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) and the one on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM).
FAFCE welcomes that the practice of surrogacy has officially been included in the list of offences of trafficking in human beings. For years, our Federation has been denouncing surrogacy as a violation of human dignity. In the context of the review of this 2011 Directive, FAFCE had already asked the European Commission for the additional inclusion of human trafficking for reproductive exploitation purposes, explicitly in the context of surrogacy.
Surrogacy indeed entails the commodification of women’s body for reproductive purposes and the selling of children. Even when the surrogate mother consents to the commodification of her body and reproductive functions, the consent is biased and thus void. In 2021, the European Parliament stated that the “sexual exploitation for surrogacy and reproductive purposes […] is unacceptable and a violation of human dignity and human rights.”
Indeed, according to Article 2 of the 2011 Directive, as modified by the current review, human trafficking involves “the recruitment […] of persons, including the exchange or transfer of control over those persons, by means of […] the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.” In the article, it is also mentioned that consent of a victim shall be irrelevant, and, that in cases where children are involved, the means of exploitation are also irrelevant. Therefore, as surrogacy involves children, the offence shall be punishable in all cases.
In practice, surrogacy generally means the exploitation of poorer women for the purposes of providing a child to richer couples. Surrogate mothers are often in situations of vulnerability, facing economic difficulties, and come to sell their body and their reproductive functions in order to support themselves and their family. Our Federation therefore welcomes the inclusion of surrogacy as a situation of human trafficking in its review of the 2011 Directive.