Liat Svartsman’s eyes were full of tears after the Department of Immigration (DoI) denied ‘entry visa’ to her baby for the third time. She and her husband, Ariel Savarstsman, from Israel have been visiting the DoI for the last 20 days seeking travel document for their baby born through an Indian surrogate in Nepal on August 20.
“We are desperate to take our baby home. We haven’t breached any laws in Nepal so why is the government not allowing us to take the baby?” she said sobbing. “I have a two-year-old child back home and I can’t stay here for long.” The couple opined that the government should let them take home the babies even if the government doesn’t want surrogacy services to continue in Nepal.
The couple had their first baby through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in Israel, second one through a surrogate in India while the third baby was born through an Indian surrogate in Nepal. When asked why did the couple opt for surrogacy in Nepal, Liat replied, “Our agent — Tamuz International — convinced us that surrogacy is easier in Nepal compared to India so we came here.”
Similarly, an Australian national Stephen (name changed) shared that he has been meeting the officials of the DoI, Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to take home his twin babies born through a surrogate. “I understand that the government wants to stop surrogacy services in Nepal but the babies that have already been born through surrogates should be given exit visas,” shared Stephen. He even added that it was difficult for his partner to go for altruistic surrogacy in Australia and thus came to Nepal.
There are more than 25 such babies stuck in Kathmandu as the DoI has stopped issuing ‘entry visas’ following the Supreme Court’s stay order to halt surrogacy services on August 25 and government’s ban on surrogacy on September 18. The government however has not said anything about ongoing surrogacies. Although there is no law on surrogacy in Nepal, the government decided to allow surrogacy services in Nepal to foreigner couples last year and several private hospitals and clinics started the services.
Grande International Hospital, Grande City Clinic (GCC), Om Hospital and Research Center and Venus Hospital among others have been providing surrogacy services in Nepal. The MoHP had issued these hospitals and clinics permission letters secretly for running surrogacy services. Nepal emerged as a hub for commercial surrogacy in Asia after surrogacy was banned in Thailand and the legal complications in India. However, both the countries had paved a way for easy exit of the babies conceived before surrogacy was banned. Director General (DG) at the DoI Kedar Neupane told Republica that they have realized the sensitivity of the issue and are holding meetings to develop a strategy to provide travel documents to such babies.
“We should be able to come up with a solution at the earliest so that foreigners can take the babies conceived and born before the government’s decision,” Neupane said. More than 70 babies born through surrogacy have already left Nepal since 2014. In the meantime, there are more than 150 pregnant surrogates in shelter houses in Kathmandu, according to the GCC.