Cambodia offers surrogacy amnesty

File image. Source: AAP

Despite strict laws banning surrogacy, the Cambodian government has assured Australians who paid for babies that they can collect their infants without fear.

Cambodia has offered amnesty to a small number of Australian families who have paid for surrogacy services, but says practise is banned and won't continue there.

The Cambodian government has decided to allow Australians who paid for babies via Melbourne nurse Tammy Davis-Charles to collect their infants without fear of being arrested, the ABC reports.

The deal comes a week after Ms Davis-Charles was arrested in Cambodia for allegedly running a surrogacy agency in breach of the country's new laws banning surrogacy.

The south-east Asian nation wants the Australians to fulfil their financial commitments to the Cambodian surrogate women, who are owed $13,500 each.

However, the government says the deal is limited to this set of 23 pregnancies arranged by Ms Davis-Charles and will not make exceptions in the future.

Founder of Australian advocacy organisation Families Through Surrogacy, Sam Everingham, told AAP he understood Ms Davis-Charles was still in custody.

Mr Everingham said he'd received phone calls from her clients informing him that they'd been asked to contribute bail money in Cambodia.

He said the 20 or so families who paid for babies via Ms Davis-Charles were "incredibly relieved" that the government has agreed to spare them from arrest.

The Cambodian government outlawed surrogacy earlier this month, throwing about 80 Australian families into uncertainty about the babies they had already paid for.

About 20 babies arranged through Ms Davis-Charles business Fertility Solutions PGD and have been exempt from the ban, however, a remaining 60 remain unsure of their fate, he said.

Cambodia has only just embraced IVF, let alone surrogacy.

"Many of the surrogates don't really understand the implications of carrying a baby and giving it up."

Many parents using Cambodian surrogates have had to lie about their relationship status to take a baby out of the country, particularly gay male couples, he said.

Men do this by "appearing to be a Westerner who's got a Cambodian woman pregnant and decided to keep the child".

Mr Everingham has himself had two children via international surrogacy and believes strong regulation and screening of surrogates is needed.

"This is why Australia needs to improve surrogacy at home," he said.

The country had seen a sharp rise in demand for services after a countries like Thailand, India and Nepal introduced bans on surrogacy.

Source AAP

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