While the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) says that laws concerning surrogacy are yet to be enacted; some major private hospitals are already providing surrogacy services. The hospitals claim that they have government 'permit' for surrogacy. They even display official letters supposedly issued to this effect by MoHP.
Some big hospitals have rented houses in Kathmandu for sheltering the surrogate mothers while the 'agents' run websites to attract as many customers as possible. Republica accessed to one such house, in which over a dozen surrogate mothers are being kept under tight security.
With surrogacy banned in India and Thailand, Nepal is emerging as a hub for commercial surrogacy in Asia. People from the West are seeking surrogacy services in Nepal through 'agents' and with the assistance of their respective embassies. These activities came to light after the Isareli embassy airlifted out surrogate mothers immediately after the catastrophic earthquake of April 25.
Agents have been running dozens of surrogacy-related websites, openly announcing surrogacy services for lesbian, gay and single men and women.
"Surrogacy in Nepal is a viable alternative for those who are unable to access surrogacy in India due to regulations. Single men and women and people who are gay can also have babies through surrogacy," reads Surrogacy Nepal, a website working for an Indian-run surrogate center in Nepal. This center has already dealt with 40 cases of surrogacy.
Medical Tourism Nepal (MTN), another center for surrogacy, showed Republica documents from MoHP purporting to allow the business. But these do not constitute legal permission.
"We have obtained the required legal papers from the government and Grade City Hospital to run this business," claimed Vishal Singh, administrative head at MTN, Durbar Marg.
However, spokesperson at MoHP Dr. Guna Raj Lohani said, "The cabinet had asked us to formulate a directive (working policy) regarding surrogacy but we have not even formed any panel for this." He argued that surrogacy can't be legal in the country as there is no law regulating the practice.
The spokesman admitted that surrogacy is rampant at many big hospitals, adding that he has absolutely no idea about any legal documents issued by the ministry regarding surrogacy.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan (2nd R) and Director General of Magen David Adom Eli Bin (3rd R) greet parents carrying their newborn babies as they reach in Israel from Kathmandu, April 27, 2015. (File photo:The Times Israel)
A cabinet decision taken last September states that Nepal will allow permission to hospitals to provide surrogacy services if both the couples involved and the surrogate mothers are foreigners.
MoHP also informed Republica that they are planning to investigate surrogacy businesses and are forming a special committee for the purpose. Dr. Lohani is tasked with overseeing surrogacy-related activities in Nepal.
Hospitals are charging hefty amounts ranging from Rs. 3.5 million to 10 million for providing surrogacy for Westerners. But a surrogate mother only receives a maximum of Rs. 700,000 for her services..
In lack of proper monitoring, the surrogacy business is flourishing in Nepal, taking undue advantage of poverty. Some of the major websites providing surrogacy services in Nepal include Fertility Tourism Nepal, Selected IVF Nepal and Venus Surrogacy Center.