Dutch embassy helps gay couple get passport for baby born to Cambodian surrogate: report

The Dutch embassy in Singapore recently helped a Dutch gay couple get a passport for their baby born to a Cambodian surrogate, after Cambodia made commercial surrogacy illegal, the Volkskrant reports.

Commercial surrogacy has been illegal in the Netherlands for a long time. "This can cause difficult situations for the surrogate, for the child and for the parents", according to the government's website. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the embassy nevertheless helped the Dutch couple because the father already claimed the unborn child as his, with the consent of the unmarried mother, in the Netherlands. This means that the child got Dutch citizenship the moment he was born. 

According to the newspaper, father, 37-year-old Sander Verschuuren and his husband  Karim Maarsi signed up for a total "surrogacy package" through mediation agency New Life, which cost them 41 thousand euros. They chose a South African woman from a New Life photo album to donate the egg. Verschuuren fertilized it, and in August last year the embryo was placed in a surrogate, a Cambodian factory worker who was paid about 10 thousand euros for her service. 

After this happened, Cambodia made commercial surrogacy illegal, without making transition arrangements for parents who were already expecting a child. Verschuuren and Maarsi repeatedly tried to contact New Life, but to no avail. With help from the Volkskrant, they then traveled to Cambodia themselves to search for their surrogate. When they found her, the woman agreed to sign papers indicating that Verschuuren was the baby's father. Verschuuren brought the documents back Amsterdam, where he claimed his future child. 

Vershcuuren traveled back to Cambodia to be there when his son was born in a Phnom Penh hospital. The child had Dutch nationality, but still needed a Dutch passport to leave Cambodia. As there is no Dutch embassy in Cambodia, the Dutch embassy in Singapore stepped in to help. Verschuuren and the surrogate mother applied for a passport in the presence of an employee of the Dutch embassy in Bangkok, who happened to be on a regular consular visit in Cambodia at the time. According to the Volkskrant, the embassy worker made certain that the Cambodian woman understood what was happening and the consequences thereof - that the child will be taken to the Netherlands. Two weeks later Verschuuren and the surrogate mother could pick up the passport at the Dutch embassy in Singapore. 

Verschuuren was able to return to the Netherlands with his son and the Cambodian woman is closer to reaching financial independence, according to the newspaper. Despite this seemingly win-win situation, commercial surrogacy is still a very controversial topic due to the ease with which a desperate woman could be taken advantage of. "There is talk of exploitation, but what is wrong with it if someone does it out of free will and in this way can let her own children study", a spokesperson for New Life said to the Volkskrant.