The european Parliament has confirmed surrogate motherhood as a form of human trafficking


The European Parliament has confirmed surrogate motherhood as a form of human trafficking

On 22nd April 2024, the European Parliament by a strong majority, definitively adopted an evolution to the directive on human trafficking established in 2011: by 563 votes for, 7 against and 17 abstentions.

The amended text confirms the criminalisation of the exploitation of forced marriage, illegal adoption and surrogate motherhood. Several measures are also aimed at reinforcing the support for victims and for countering human trafficking.

According to the provisions in article 1, the directive “establishes the minimum rules relative to the definition of penal offences and sanctions in the field of human trafficking.” The exploitation of surrogate motherhood or “substitution maternity” enters that context at the European level. The term “exploitation” is applicable also to vulnerability situations, which signifies as specified in article 2.2 “That the person concerned has no other real or acceptable choice but to submit to such abuse.”

In order to achieve the implementation of this directive, the European Council must first approve it formally. The directive will come into effect 20 days after its publication in the European Union gazette. The member States will then have two years to transpose the directive into their own legal procedures.

The recognition of this prohibition of trafficking associated with surrogate motherhood by the European Union constitutes a decisive stage for achieving its prohibition both throughout Europe and internationally. Europe is therefore pioneering along the lines of the Casablanca declaration launched in March 2023, calling for a proposal for an international convention for the worldwide abolition of surrogate motherhood.

On 6th October 2023, the European members of parliament added surrogate motherhood to the human trafficking crimes.

This vote took place during the joint commission on women’s rights and civil liberties, on a “proposed position” concerning a revision to directive 2011/36/UE on the fight against human trafficking.

In addition to surrogate motherhood for the purpose of reproductive exploitation, illegal adoption and forced marriage were also added to the list of human trafficking, three practices to be penalised in Europe. The Euro MPs also wished to provide the European Union repressive services with greater means to act against human trafficking and to provide better support for the victims.

The initial directive currently in force was adopted in 2011. Its revision, 12 years later, is intended to take account of the new challenges and to harmonise the data.  In European law, a directive is a legislative act which establishes objectives for the European Union member states.

In addition to this draft proposal adopted by the MPs from both the right and the left, they also approved the mandate for negotiation with the European Union Council. The next stage is due in the coming weeks in the transcription of these new measures into the directive revised by the Council.

This recognition of the prohibition of trafficking associated with surrogate motherhood in the European Union is a decisive stage towards obtaining its prohibition in Europe and internationally. Europe would thus become a forerunner in line with the Casablanca declaration launched last March, which calls for the proposal of an international convention for the worldwide abolition of surrogate motherhood.


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