By reproductive exploitation, we refer to: prohibition of abortion, forced abortion, forced pregnancy, surrogacy, oocytes sales. These practices lock women into the role of reproducers for others, to the detriment of their health and human rights. Therefore, they have to be included in any instruments dealing with violence against women.
This statement focuses on surrogacy.
Surrogacy is the social practice that consists of recruiting a woman to gestate and give birth to one or more children, whether they are conceived with her own oocytes or not, in exchange for payment, and through a contract, to give the baby away, thus renouncing her parental rights, to one or more people (called commissioners, clients or buyers1) who wish to be designated as the parents of the new-born2.
Surrogacy entails the objectification of women, the commodification of the new-born, the trafficking of human beings, and the violation of human dignity of the woman exploited as ‘surrogate mother’ and the child, thus undermining women’s and child's rights.
Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on combating violence against women and domestic violence.
In its efforts to update the notion of violence in this directive, the European Commission should go further and include reproductive violence that exclusively affects women.
Today, in Europe, the benchmark on male violence against women is the Istanbul Convention3
The Istanbul Convention defines VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN as “all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercive or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”. It also recognises that violence against women constitutes "a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women".
However, the Istanbul convention is more than 10 years old. Globalisation and new technologies have facilitated new forms of male violence, such as, for example, the cyberviolence. For this reason and given the lack of ratification by certain EU states, the European Commission has undertaken to create a new Directive that would address, in a comprehensive manner, all forms of violence against women, binding member states to preventing and eradicating them.
In order to become a truly comprehensive EU legal instrument that leaves no woman or girl behind, the violence inflicted upon women through reproductive exploitation must be included in the new Directive. Reproductive exploitation is a fast growing global multi-million industry and a form of violence against women. To satisfy someone else's parental wishes, women are subjected to physical, economic, medical and psychological violence which has been widely documented4. Women’s reproductive capacity should only serve their own parental projects, not that of others, which is exploitative.
In surrogacy, the mothers exploited as “surrogates” relinquish all their rights throughout the process. Worldwide, the contract and/or regulation governing this practice disposes of human beings, both the mothers exploited as surrogates and the future child (making use of them depriving them of their freedoms and rights). In Europe, most countries aware of this violation of the fundamental human rights enshrined in the EU Charter, have outlawed this practice on their territory. However, these provisions are systematically undermined by the development of cross-border surrogacy.
Legitimising or facilitating this practice is tantamount to fostering the demand for the exploitation of the most vulnerable by the most well-off social classes. To satisfy their desire for a child an exemption to human rights is granted, to the detriment of women, especially those from the most economically and socially vulnerable groups. Considering all these elements, the practices described above as reproductive violence, rooted in inequality between women and men and a manifestation of structural discrimination against women, fall within the definition of violence against women5 of the Istanbul Convention and, as such, should be covered by the directive.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic, and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions on the EU anti-trafficking strategy (2021-2025).
Trafficking in human beings invents new methods every day. Alongside trafficking for prostitution and child trafficking, trafficking for reproductive purposes is growing faster and faster.
The United Nations Palermo Protocol uses three criteria for trafficking to occur6:
• The activity (recruitment, transportation, harbouring or receipt of persons);
• The means (threat, use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power, position of vulnerability, giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent );
• The purpose (exploitation of victims).
These criteria have been adopted by the European Union in its 2011 EU Anti-Trafficking Directive in its definition of trafficking. The victim's consent to the intended exploitation is irrelevant if any of the above means have been used.
Human dignity is the very basis of fundamental rights and a foundational value of the European Union (Article 2 TEU). According to Article 1 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, "human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected". Every human being has an inviolable and intrinsic dignity, which is a universal value, and her or his body must be respected as part of the whole human person.
Not only does surrogacy directly destroys human dignity, but it meets all three criteria for the classification of trafficking. Mothers recruited as surrogates by brokers or clients may be "transported" to the clients' country, or to a third country to circumvent regulations, or subject to mobility within their own country. Their so-called "consent" is often based on manipulation, deception, or pressure, because of their social and economic vulnerability. The result is financial gain for the stakeholders involved (brokers, psychologists, lawyers, clinics, medical personnel, travel agencies), and the procurement of new-born human beings for the clients.
Cross-border ssurrogacy is emerging as a new form of human trafficking due to globalization, increased mobility, and the development of new digital and/or medical technologies as it has been highlighted by certain bioethics committees7. As such, it should be specified and added into the revised directive on trafficking. The Directive on violence against women that includes in its scope reproductive exploitation will contribute to better prevention of crime, improve protection of women victims and of children's rights. It will contribute to strengthening another foundational value of the European Union, i.e. equality between women and men and the access to fundamental rights stemming from the Charter of Human Rights of the European Union. To do so, the European Union already has strong foundations as it has repeatedly condemned surrogacy:
- In 2015, as an infringement of human dignity8;
- In 2017, as a source of human rights violations, in the context of human trafficking9;
- In 2021, its impact on the health of mothers exploited through surrogacy and the breach of equality between women and men it represents10;
- In 2021, as sexual exploitation, on the same level as sexual exploitation of women through forced marriages, prostitution and pornography11;
- In 2022, it reiterated all its condemnations of practice of surrogacy in relation to the situation of women in the context of the war in Ukraine12.
We, the signatories of this joint statement, demand that the European Commission and the European Parliament systematically take surrogacy into account in their legislative work, as a reproductive violence inflicted on women, as human trafficking, and a violation of children’s rights.
EWL – European women’s Lobby
ENoMW – European Network of Migrant Women
CAP International – International Coalition Against Prostitution
ICASM - International Coalition for the Abolition of Surrogate Motherhood
1 - commissioning or intending parents according to the surrogacy market
2 - http://abolition-ms.org/en/news/draft-international-convention-for-the-abolition-of-surrogacy/
4- about the high medical risks incurred by surrogate mothers, healthy women who have no parental plans for themselves but for third parties : Gestational surrogacy: results of 10 years of experience in the Netherlands https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1472648318305212 and also see “Risk of preeclampsia in pregnancies resulting from double gamete donation and from oocyte donation alone” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30177040/
5 - Istanbul Convention. Article 3(a)
6 - Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/protocol-prevent- suppress-and-punish-trafficking-persons
7- Spanish bioethics committee points out that "One reason to support the prohibition of altruistic surrogacy could lie in the inability of the law to prevent commercial surrogacy once altruistic surrogacy has been accepted" http://assets.comitedebioetica.es/files/documentacion/en/spanish_bioethics_committee_report_on_the_ethical_and_legal_aspe cts_of_surrogacy.pdf (page 26)
8 - http://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2015-0470_FR.html
9 - https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2018-0515_FR.html
10 - https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2022-0041_FR.htm
12 - https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-9-2022-0206_FR.html
OTHER SIGNATORIES TO THE STATEMENT
1000 OPPORTUNITIES/ 1000 MÖJLIGHETER - SWEDEN 44 VILAINES FILLES - FRANCE ABOLICIONISTAS HUESCA - SPAIN ADAVAS - LEÓN - SPAIN AMICALE DU NID - FRANCE ANTI PORNOGRAPHY AND PROSTITUTION RESEARCH GROUP - JAPAN ANYDES - SPAIN ARCILESBICA ITALIA - ITALY ASOCIACIÓN DE PROFESIONALES DE LOS CENTROS DE INFORMACIÓN A LAS MUJERES - SPAIN ASOCIACIÓN FEMINISTA LEONESA "FLORA TRISTÁN" - SPAIN ASOCIACIÓN MUJERES JURISTAS DE LA PROVINCIA DE JAÉN - SPAIN ASOCIACIÓN MUJERES PARA LA SALUD - SPAIN ASSEMBLÉE DES FEMMES - FRANCE ASSOCIATION BAGDAM ESPACE LESBIEN - FRANCE ASSOCIAZIONE DORAD - ITALY ASSOCIAZIONE IROKO ONLUS - ITALY ASTERIA AGRUPACIÓN FEMINISTA - MEXICO AUTONOMOUS WOMEN'S CENTER - SERBIA AWSA-BE - ARAB WOMEN'S SOLIDARITY ASSOCIATION - BELGIUM - BELGIUM BEBEBIENVENU ASSOCIATION - ROMANIA BULGARIAN PLATFORM EWL - BULGARIA CAMINOS PARA CONVIVIR SC - MEXICO CAMT - MEXICO CAP INTERNATIONAL SPAIN - SPAIN CENTER AGAINST HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND EXPLOITATION, LITHUANIA - LITHUANIA CENTRE ÉVOLUTIF LILITH (CEL) - FRANCE CENTRE FOR SOCIAL AND GENDER RESEARCH "NEW LIFE" - UKRAINE CENTRE FOR WOMEN WAR VICTIMS - ROSA - CROATIA CHIENNES DE GARDE - FRANCE CNFF ET CIF - FRANCE COALITION AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN - USA COLECTIVO DE MUJERES CONTRA LA VIOLENCIA DE GÉNERO - MEXICO COLETIVA SOCIEDADE MATRIARCAL - BRAZIL COLLECTIF FÉMINICIDES PAR COMPAGNONS OU EX - FRANCE COLLECTIF LIBERTAIRE ANTI-SEXISTE - FRANCE COLLECTIF POUR LE RESPECT DE LA PERSONNE CORP - FRANCE COMISION PARA LA INVESTIGACIÓN DE MALOS TRATOS A MUJERES - SPAIN CONSEIL NATIONAL DES FEMMES FRANÇAISES CNFF - FRANCE CONSEIL NATIONAL DES FEMMES FRANÇAISES CNFF-ICW - ICW - FRANCE CONSELL NACIONAL DONES D'ESPANYA CNDE - SPAIN CONSULTORÍA EN GÉNERO, PERIODISMO Y COMUNICACIÓN - MEXICO CQFD LESBIENNES FEMINISTES - FRANCE DEMOCRACY DEVELOPMENT CENTER - UKRAINE DOFEMCO - SPAIN ECVF ÉLU·ES CONTRE LES VIOLENCES FAITES AUX FEMMES - FRANCE EHULEAK - SPAIN ELEANOR M. & OSCAR M. CARLSON ENDOWED CHAIR IN WOMEN'S STUDIES, EMERITA, UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND - USA EMISSION FEMMES LIBRES SUR RADIO LIBERTAIRE 89.4 - FRANCE EN CLAU DE DONA - SPAIN ENCORE FÉMINISTES ! - FRANCE END DEMAND SWITZERLAND - SWITZERLAND EUROMED FEMINIST INITIATIVE - FRANCE EUROPEAN CENTER OF THE INTERNATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN - BELGIUM FEDERACIÓN DE MUJERES PROGRESISTAS - SPAIN FEDERACIÓN MEXICANA DE UNIVERSITARIAS - MEXICO FEDERACIÓN MUJERES JÓVENES - SPAIN FEMES. FEMINISTAS SOCIALISTAS. - SPAIN FEMICANAS: EL AQUELARRE. - COLOMBIA FEMINISTAS AL CONGRESO - SPAIN FEMMES DU MONDE ET RÉCIPROQUEMENT - FRANCE FEMMES ICI ET AILLEURS - FRANCE FEMMES POUR LE DIRE, FEMMES POUR AGIR - FRANCE FEMU - MEXICO FEMU, A.C. - MEXICO FEVIMI - FEDERACIÓN PARA LA ERRADICACIÓN DE LA VIOLENCIA EN LAS MUJERES Y NIÑAS - SPAIN FINRRAGE - AUSTRALIA FONDATION SCELLES - FRANCE FÓRUM DE POLÍTICA FEMINISTA DE MÁLAGA - SPAIN FORUM FEMMES JOURNALISTES DE LA MÉDITERRANÉE - EUROPE FORUM FEMMES MÉDITERRANÉE - FRANCE FORUM POLÍTICA 8 - SPAIN FRENCH COORDINATION FOR THE EUROPEAN WOMEN LOBBY (LA CLEF) - FRANCE FRENTE FEMINISTA NACIONAL - MEXICO FRENTE NACIONAL FEMINISTA ABOLICIONISTA - MEXICO FRONT ABOLICIONISTA DEL PAÍS VALENCIÁ - SPAIN FRONT FÉMINISTE - FRANCE FUERZA DEMOCRÁTICA DE GUERRERO - MEXICO GAMS FEDERATION - FRANCE GES ASOCIACIÓN CIVIL - ARGENTINA GREEK LEAGUE FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS - GREECE GROUPE EUROPE DES FEDERALISTES EUROPÉENS - BELGIUM HEURA LILA - SPAIN HUNGARIAN WOMEN'S LOBBY - HUNGARY INITIATIVE FÉMINISTE EUROMED - FRANCE IRUÑA ARANCIBIA CRISTÓBAL - SPAIN ISALA ASBL - BELGIUM ITALIAN COORDINATION OF THE EUROPEAN WOMEN'S LOBBY - ITALY JAPAN COALITION AGAINST SURROGACY PRACTICES - JAPAN JUSTICE FOR WOMEN - UK KASANDRXS-FEMINISTAS ABOLICIONISTAS- - ARGENTINA KLAIPEDA SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SUPPORT CENTRE - LITHUANIA LA RÉVOLUTION SERA FÉMINISTE- EMISSION RADIO GALERE MARSEILLE - FRANCE LA REVUELTA SUBVERSIVA - URUGUAY LABORATORIO FEMINISTA DE DERECHOS DIGITALES - MEXICO LAS DEL AQUELARRE FEMINISTA - MEXICO LE MONDE SELON LES FEMMES ASBL - BELGIUM LIBRES MARIANNES - FRANCE LIGUE DU DROIT INTERNATIONAL DES FEMMES - FRANCE LOBBY EUROPEO DE MUJERES EN ESPAÑA- LEM ESPAÑA - SPAIN LUZ ULTRAVIOLETA - SPAIN MAISON DES FEMMES DE PARIS - FRANCE MALEN ETXEA, MUJERES INMIGRANTES - SPAIN MALVA - SPAIN MARCHE MONDIALE DES FEMMES FRANCE - FRANCE MARIZ / GLOBAL WOMAN PEACE ACTIONS - BRAZIL MARTA CENTRE - LATVIA MATERFEM MATERNIDADES FEMINISTAS GALEGAS - SPAIN MEDITERRANEAN INSTITUTE OF GENDER STUDIES - CYPRUS MÉMOIRE TRAUMATIQUE ET VICTIMOLOGIE - FRANCE MIGRANT WOMEN HUNGARY ASSOCIATION.(SHE4SHE) - HUNGARY MILLENNIA2025 WOMEN AND INNOVATION FOUNDATION - BELGIUM MORADA RADICAL - MEXICO MOUVEMENT DU NID - FRANCE MUJERES ABOLICIONISTAS CANARAS - SPAIN MUJERES POR LA ABOLICIÓN - SPAIN MUSEO DE LA MUJER (CABA) - ARGENTINA NACIÓN MUJERES - SPAIN NATIONAL COUNCIL OF WOMEN OF UKRAINE - UKRAINE NETWORK OF EAST-WEST WOMEN, NEWW- POLAND - POLAND NGO "RURAL WOMEN OF UKRAINE" - UKRAINE NGO INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES - UKRAINE NGO KYIV SCHOOL OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES - UKRAINE NKARI FUNDACJA IM. KAZIMIERZA ŁYSZCZYNSKIEGO - POLAND NORDIC MODEL NOW! - UK NOUSTOUTES70 - FRANCE NUEVA ALIANZA PUEBLA - MEXICO OBJECT UK – UK OBSERVATORIO DE VIOLENCIA SOCIAL Y DE GENERO EN EL ESTADO DE CHIAPAS - MEXICO ONGD AFRICANDO - SPAIN OSEZ LE FÉMINISME ! - FRANCE OSEZ LE FEMINISME 17 - FRANCE PARTI COMMUNISTE FRANÇAIS - COMMISSION FEMINISTE - FRANCE PARTIDO FEMINISTA DE ESPAÑA - SPAIN PARTIDO FEMINISTA DE ESPAÑA EN CANARIAS - SPAIN PATENT ASSOCIATION - HUNGARY PECOLA PRODUCTIONS - BELGIUM PERSONS AGAINST NON-STATE TORTURE - CANADA PORTUGUESE PLATFORM FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS - PORTUGAL POUR LES DROITS DES FEMMES DU QUÉBEC - PDF QUÉBEC - CANADA RADICAILÍN - IRELAND RAJFIRE - FRANCE REBELLES DU GENRE - FRANCE RECAV, RED ESTATAL CONTRA EL ALQUILER DE VIENTRES - SPAIN RED PARA EL AVANCE POLÍTICO DE LAS MUJERES GUERRERENSES - MEXICO REDE DE JOVENS PARA A IGUALDADE DE OPORTUNIDADE ENTRE MULHERES E HOMENS - PORTUGAL REGARDS DE FEMMES - FRANCE REGIONAL COALITION AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN WOMEN AND GIRLS IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN (CATWLAC) - MEXICO REMUE MÉNINGES FÉMINISTE, RADIO LIBERTAIRE 89,4 - FRANCE RÉSEAU FÉMINISTE "RUPTURES" - FRANCE RÉUSSIR L'ÉGALITÉ FEMMES HOMMES - FRANCE SAFE SCHOOLS ALLIANCE - UK SE NON ORA QUANDO LIBERE - ITALY SECULARISM IS A WOMEN'S ISSUE - SIAWI.ORG - INTERNATIONAL SISTERS - FÜR DEN AUSSTIEG AUS DER PROSTITUTION! E.V. - GERMANY SOCIETATEA DE ANALIZE FEMINISTE ANA, BUCURESTI, ROUMANIE - ROMANIA SOCIETY KLJUC - CENTRE FOR FIGHT AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN HUMAN BEINGS - SLOVENIA SOLIDARITE-FAMILLES - FRANCE SORTIR DU SILENCE - FRANCE STOP SURROGACY NOW UK - UK STOP VIENTRES DE ALQUILER - SPAIN STOPPT LEIHMUTTERSCHAFT - AUSTRIA SWEDISH WOMEN'S LOBBY - SWEDEN TERTULIA FEMINISTA LES COMADRES - SPAIN UAM - SPAIN UDI DI NAPOLI - ITALY UKRAINIAN ASSOCIATION FOR RESEARCH IN WOMEN'S HISTORY - UKRAINE UKRAINIAN WOMEN IN GREECE - GREECE UNION EUROPÉENNE DES FEMMES - FRANCE UNIVERSIDAD COMPLUTENSE DE MADRID (members of) – SPAIN UNIVERSIDAD DE CONCEPCIÓN (members of) - CHILE UNIVERSIDAD DE GRANADA (members of) - SPAIN UNIZON - SWEDEN VADMC - FRANCE VILLE DE CLERMONT-FERRAND (CM) - FRANCE WOMEN WORLDWIDE ADVANCING FREEDOM & EQUALITY (WAAFE) - UK WOMEN@THEWELL - UK WOMEN’S BALTIC PEACEBUILDING INITIATIVE - SWEDEN WOMEN'S ASSOCIATION VUKOVAR - CROATIA WOMEN'S DECLARATION ARGENTINA - ARGENTINA WOMEN'S DECLARATION INTERNATIONAL - FRANCE - FRANCE WOMEN'S DECLARATION INTERNATIONAL - INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DECLARATION INTERNATIONAL SPAIN - SPAIN WOMEN'S NETWORK OF CROATIA - CROATIA YAOTLYAOCIHUATL AMEYAL AC - MEXICO ZÉROMACHO- DES HOMMES CONTRE LE SYSTÈME PROSTITUEUR - FRANCE