| November 22, 2017
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Govt mulling exit visas for babies born to surrogates

Shreejana Shrestha/Republica Israeli couple Ariel and Liat Svartsman holding their baby born through surrogate mother at Grande City Clinic, Jamal, last week. Shreejana Shrestha/Republica Israeli couple Ariel and Liat Svartsman holding their baby born through surrogate mother at Grande City Clinic, Jamal, last week.
KATHMANDU, Oct 2: The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has decided to table a proposal before the cabinet that would allow foreigners to return to their home countries along with their babies born through surrogate mothers in Nepal.

The Department of Immigration (DoI) had stopped issuing exit permit to the babies born through surrogate mothers following the uncertainty surrounding the Supreme Court's stay order on August 25 and the government's ban on September 18 against surrogacy services.
The MoHP, which is studying the legal grounds for developing the proposal to ease the exit of babies born to surrogates, said that the surrogacy issue was extremely sensitive and that it should be addressed by the cabinet.

There are more than 25 surrogate babies are stuck in Kathmandu as the decision of the government prohibiting surrogacy services in the country says nothing about the conception that occurred before the ban came into effect. Likewise, there are more than 150 pregnant surrogate mothers at shelter houses in Kathmandu, according to the hospitals.

"We are holding extensive discussions with all stakeholders and we will soon develop a proposal and forward it to the cabinet so that the babies already born and waiting to be born can make an easy exit from Nepal," said Shanta Bahadur Shrestha, secretary at the MoHP.

The MoHP held meetings with government officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), the Ministry of law and Justice, the Department of Consular and Department of Immigration (DoI) before agreeing to allow foreigners to take their babies home on the humanitarian ground and international practice.

"We are waiting for the cabinet decision to issue exit permit to the babies already born and who will be born in due course," said Kedar Neupane, director general of the DoI.

The government banned surrogacy in Nepal amid legal controversies.

The government last year decided to allow hospitals to provide surrogacy services for foreigners in Nepal, but some private hospitals and surrogacy service centers started such services even before the formulation of related laws.

Hospitals like Grande International Hospital, Grande City Clinic (GCC), Om Hospital and Research Center and Venus Hospital, among others, have been providing surrogacy services on a basis of 'permission letter' given by a department of the MoHP.

Since 2014, 70 babies born through surrogacy have been taken away from Nepal by their foreign parents, mostly Israeli couples.

Nepal emerged as a hub for commercial surrogacy in Asia after surrogacy was banned in Thailand and the legal complications in India. In 2013, India prevented gay men and couples who had been married for less than two years from opting for surrogacy. The first surrogacy baby was born to an Israeli couple in Nepal in January 2014.