In Russia, single fathers, whose children were born to surrogate mothers, are worried about being implicated in a human trafficking case that critics say is being instrumentalized for homophobic reasons.
“I’ve been working in accordance with the law since 2003,” the CEO of Rosjurconsulting Konstantin Svitnev, and one of those charged, told DW. “We were the first law firm to work in this area in Russia. Now there are hundreds of surrogacy agencies, but they are only investigating me and people whom I’ve worked with.”
He said that the prosecutors wanted to prove that they had been involved in baby trafficking and had simply handed newborns over to clients, whose eggs or semen had not been used at all. “This is not the case,” Svitnev insisted, pointing out that the defense team had put forward the results of a genetic report as evidence.
The authorities, he said, were not interested in human trafficking but in the sexual orientation of Rosjurconsulting and ECSM’s customers. Reports in the media implied that during interrogation, doctors were asked to provide information about any “signs of homosexuality,” amongst other things, which were exhibited by their clients.
“I never even ask my clients about such a thing,” said Svitnev angrily. He added, that in 2010, a court confirmed to him explicitly that single fathers could also take part in surrogacy programs. “This looks like an attack by the authorities on people who do not have a «traditional» sexual orientation, which, of course, is completely discriminatory.”
He said that searches that had been conducted into clinics with which Rosjurconsulting and ECSM worked in September were proof that investigators had been looking for gay fathers specifically because they had sought out information about single men. He also said that the interrogators had phoned several single fathers for an informal conversation. The Russian Investigative Committee would neither confirm nor deny reports about the interrogations or the nature of the probe. A request for information by DW to the committee remains unanswered. “The silence says plenty,” says Svitnev. “They were caught in the act.”
Svitnev has advised his clients not to partake in any informal conversations and to request an official summons. He also recommends fathers and their children have a DNA test and make sure all their medical files about the surrogacy are in order and legally certified.
Two of his clients have decided to leave Russia with their children.