Gay and single men in Russia are fleeing the country with their children, after they were threatened with arrest for creating families via surrogacy.
Under Vladimir Putin’s rule, authorities in Russia declared this month that gay and single men who have had children by surrogacy will face arrest for “baby trafficking”.
Although surrogacy is legal in Russia, Russian state media reported that an official within the country’s Investigative Committee compared surrogacy to baby trafficking, and insisted that it was an offence for men with “non-traditional orientation” to use their sperm for IVF.
The unnamed official said: “We plan to arrest a number of suspects, single men, and Russian citizens, who have used surrogate mothers to give birth to children.”
While the plan has not been confirmed by the government, single and gay men are now fleeing the country for fear of losing their children.
Under the pseudonym Alexander, one man told the Guardian said that although he knew he had not broken any law by having a baby through surrogacy, he wasn’t willing to put his six-month-old son at risk.
When Alexander, 40, saw the news that he could be targeted for having a family, he “thought he’d lost his grip on reality”.
“I thought I wasn’t reading the article properly,” he added.
He decided to flee the country after a source at his doctor’s clinic told him that investigators had looked at his son’s medical records, and that it appeared he “was going to have problems”.
Although he misses home, Alexander said he wouldn’t be returning to Russia any time soon.
“Of course I would like to come home, take my child back to a place he knows, where his grandma and grandpa are nearby,” he said.
Men having children via surrogacy is a principle that has been successfully defended in Russian courts many times, and Konstantin Svitnev is the lawyer who established this principle.
Svitnev also happens to be the main suspect in the criminal case which sparked the crackdown on surrogacy in Russia, and has himself fled the country.
Seven people have already been arrested in Russia on baby trafficking charges after a baby born to a surrogate mother died in a tragic cot death in January.
The baby was found in a flat in Moscow with three other children, all believed to have been conceived by surrogate, and two nannies.
The children were being cared for by nannies while their parents organised paperwork to take them back home. The baby was found to have died by natural causes.
But Russian authorities decided that the baby died “by negligence” and that the surrogacy arrangement constituted “baby trafficking”. Investigators are playing the blazing anti-LGBT+ sentiment in Russia to link baby trafficking to gay men.
Medical staff and lawyers involved in the surrogacy were arrested, and Svitnev is wanted by police back home.
The lawyer said that the current situation for gay and single parents who have had children by surrogacy in Russia is a “disaster”.
He said: “For these people it’s a disaster. They have a job, house, business, they’ve made their lives in Russia.
“And now, because they’ve decided to become parents in this country, they have had to take their children, leave everything behind and run into the unknown.”