Vietnam's Ministry of Justice is considering legalizing surrogacy among other proposed changes to the country's 13-year-old Family and Marriage Law.
Duong Dinh Hue, head of the civil and economic desk at the ministry, said at a Tuesday meeting that the ministry aims to amend the law in a "fundamental and comprehensive" way, Tuoi Tre reported.
Tuong Duy Luong, vice presiding judge of the Supreme People's Court, said surrogacy is not a simply a legal issue, but a sensitive social concern.
Luong said the country should recognize the service for humanitarian purposes, as there are many women who are unable to become pregnant due to medical reasons. "They are the disadvantaged. It's inhuman if we do not support them."
Nguyen Viet Tien, vice minister of health, said at the conference that surrogacy is a medical achievement that makes the dream of motherhood attainable for infertile women.
"If we accept that women who cannot breastfeed their children let others do it, we should accept surrogacy. The two issues are almost the same, except that one happens before birth and the other after," Tien said.
Officials from the Justice Ministry said the Vietnamese ban on surrogacy was designed to prevent the occurrence of child trafficking and out of fear that without it, women would have too many children and in doing so, pose a threat to population stability.
But the ban hurts many women desperate to become mothers.
Le Huu The from the supreme prosecution unit said the service is actually being provided anyway and because it is officially outlawed, the government is unable to protect those involved, especially the babies, when conflicts arise.
Local media have reported instances of surrogacy taking place in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City between infertile women and poor ones needing money.
In many cases the surrogates only rent their wombs, but others also donate their eggs and have sex with the husbands under agreements. Some babies are breastfed by their surrogate mothers for several months, which only makes giving them away later more painful.
Officials said the law will not only allow the kind of surrogacy that involves egg donation, so that the service only stops at one woman helping another to nurture children before they are born.
Surrogacy is illegal in many Western countries including France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Swede, as well as China and Japan.
The meeting also heard discussions on the legalization of same-sex marriages and adding new regulations regarding the increasing popularity of locals marrying foreigners, such as requiring the foreign partners to demonstrate an understanding of Vietnamese culture and traditions.
Luong said Vietnamese people in general do not perceive same-sex marriage as normal, but they also do not support a ban against it, or in other words an administrative intervention into people's private lives. He said there should be empathy for members of the LGBT community.
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the meeting that the law needs to reflect the realities of life. "The Marriage and Family Law affects every person in the country. So we should respect their opinions when making new and sensitive amendments to the law."
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