Thursday, December 5, 2019

Legislators caught flatfooted as Batswana women rent out their wombs

The site lists her name as Refilwe. The surname field is blank and her home town has been assigned a generic “South East District.” The mother of two is however more than just a nobody from nowhere; she is the unsung storm trooper of Botswana’s parturiency revolution.

A post one year ago on “find a surrogate mother” website by the Health Science student who wanted to raise money for her university tuition fee by renting out her womb to infertile couples turned her into a reluctant trail blazer.

Since posting that she was “available” to offer her services to anyone seeking a surrogate mother, a dozen or so Botswana women have signed up as potential surrogate mothers on “find a surrogate mother” website.

The site which offers “Surrogate MothersIntended ParentsEgg DonorsSperm DonorsSurrogacy LawyersFertility ClinicsSurrogacy Agencies and Egg Donor Agencies” reveals how ordinary Batswana women have outpaced Botswana’s legislation and judicial system which have fallen far behind on issues of surrogacy. Botswana currently does not have a law that regulates surrogacy.

Posts on the site also offer a peep show into Batswana potential surrogate mothers’ educational background and reasons for considering surrogacy.

Latidzani Latty Gabototwe from South East District who only joined  the find a surrogate mother” website one moths ago posted in Setswanglish:  “Dear Intended parents Hello,my name is Latty from Botswana,im 29years and a mother of 1 child,i would love to give out a hand of helping you to become parents,as I am fit and have experience about pregnancy. My wish is to see you happy having a complete family as in God’s eyes everything is possible,I will happy if you could give me this opportunity to help you. Thank you Yours Faithfully Latidzani Latty Gabototwe.”

It should not come as a surprise that traditional Batswana women have sprinted ahead of the law on surrogacy. The practice is not alien to Botswana’s culture.

Surrogacy is not alien to Botswana culture. Since time immemorial, Batswana women have nominated relatives to give birth on their behalf. The procedure can bring with it great advantages, especially for those who can’t have children naturally, by allowing individuals and couples to have their “own” child, without going through a long and restrictive adoption process.

Botswana however seem to be on the verge of commercial surrogacy. This is when a surrogate mother is paid a fee to carry and deliver the baby on behalf of couples who have infertility problems.

There are two types of surrogacy — and there’s a big difference between them. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate donates the egg and is genetically connected to the child. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate receives a fertilized embryo and has no genetic connection to the child. That embryo may have been fertilized by the intended father and mother or by a separate egg donor.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology at the University Of Botswana, “Surrogacy is often thought to be a ‘treatment’ option for the infertile or an alternative to adoption, and so to be celebrated in fulfilling people’s desires to be parents. Most surrogates understand the potential risks and sacrifices involved with becoming a surrogate, but choose to do so anyway because of their sense of compassion. For many couples around the world, surrogacy isn’t just a way to get pregnant; it represents a second chance at starting a family. For the women and families affected by infertility, surrogacy gives hope where many thought none existed. Society is only beginning to grapple with the issues that it raises. With regard to the surrogate mother, her actual deed – helping a childless couple – is seen by many as a selfless act. The view that the surrogate mother would risk emotional suffering cause people to regard the surrogate mother with great respect:  However, when the element of money is added, for many in the lower socioeconomic groups it conflicts with the construction of the woman as a mother. With the involvement of money, surrogacy is understood as more of an economic transaction than a motherly act. Motherhood becomes commercialized, which is contrary to the values of society.”

Precious Gondwe of Precious and Partners Legal Practice in Gaborone says “The practice in Botswana is generally unregulated. We had a case a couple years back of a couple who were married but couldn’t conceive. As the marriage progressed, the couple felt the need to have children, and after exploring a number of options and consulting a renowned gynecologist in South Africa, decided to go the surrogacy route. Unfortunately the couple’s marriage crumbled and they sought a divorce and the man backtracked and withdrew his consent demanding that the procedure be terminated/ stopped.  The lady ended up winning the case though. I think the main issue with surrogacy in Botswana is that we don’t have the resources; we have not had much of ‘surrogacy or any other new fertility treatments happening. There is no law that is against it or speaks against it in the country. I do however believe that the law has a way of intervening, so I believe that whether there is no specific law in our constitution that speaks  to that somehow ultimately there has to be some interpretation that is implied regarding surrogacy that may solve any legal issues that may arise. The main issue with surrogacy is most and usually affordability. 

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