Available data by Rwanda Biomedical Center suggest that 24 percent of patients who consult the genetic department every year struggle with primary infertility caused by chromosomal abnormalities. Women are more affected than men.
These couples’ last resort to have children is adoption, at least until a Bill that allows medically assisted reproductive methods, such as surrogacy, is passed.
While Rwanda’s current law allows assistance in production between a man and a woman but does not provide details on the procedure. Lawyers say loopholes in the law make the procedure risky.
Due to the sensitive nature of surrogacy and the complexity of the agreement and process required, it is of the utmost importance that surrogacy is done legally.
A bill that has been tabled by a group of deputies headed by MP Gamaliel Mbonimpa before Lower Chamber proposed several reforms to the Law on Human Reproductive
Health including legalising surrogacy. According to Mbonimpa, it could take at least a year for the Bill to sail through due to controversy it is likely to attract.
For couples who have already spent years struggling to have a child, this law should have been enacted yesterday. The longer it takes to have the law, the more couples struggle emotionally, and financially as the whole process is expensive.
But the Bill comes a few months after a couple dealing with primary infertility was forced to go to court to allow them surrogacy.
Yet, the absence of a comprehensive legislation that addresses rights and responsibilities of the parties involved in surrogacy could fuel a boom as some may take advantage of the loopholes.
According to a researcher, Prof Amritha Pande of the University of Cape Town, an expert on international surrogacy who has spent more than a decade probing the once booming industry in India, surrogacy thrives in a legal vacuum worldwide.
For instance, when one country bans commercial surrogacy, affected people moves from to another country. It just shifts a morally sticky issue elsewhere as the industry seeks ways to offer services at the lowest possible costs.
In her book Wombs in Labour, she tells of how once grubby facilities became high-tech where women lived for nine months until they gave birth and handed over the babies of those who had paid them.
There have been public outcries about alleged exploitation as sometimes mothers simply agree due to financial desperation.
It is important that our lawmakers carefully study the issue and come up with a progressive law that protects the rights of the surrogates including an affirmation of their dignity and to stop exploitation. Otherwise people just find ways to bypass the loopholes.