By Gabi Falanga
People who identify as LGBTQIA+ may be wondering what their options are for having children. LGBTQIA+ is the acronym used to refer to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, asexual and other spectrums of sexuality and gender. In South Africa, single people or same-sex couples have the same rights when it comes to having children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Nonetheless, they may face obstacles that heterosexual couples don’t face – such as discrimination and additional expenses – in their quest to have children. If you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, here are some of your options for having children.
Adoption: Adoption allows the adoptive parent or couple legal parental rights over a child whose biological parents have had those rights terminated. The law allows for adoptive parents who are single, married or in a life-partnership, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Prospective parents will need go through an application process through a private adoption agency, or the government’s Child Welfare. This screening is to determine whether the applicants are financially, emotionally and physically able to take good care of a child. While in legal terms, sexual orientation or gender identity is not a factor which should stand in the way of adoption, prospective adoptive parents may face discrimination from some agencies who do not believe that LGBTQIA+ people should have children.
Foster care: This is a temporary arrangement to provide a safe and secure environment for a child who has been removed from their home due to neglect, abuse, abandonment, or becoming orphaned. The process is done by social workers through the Children’s Court. Foster care applicants will need to undergo the same screening as for adoption. Foster children may be returned to their biological families if their circumstances improve significantly enough to be able to care for the children. Some foster children do become eligible for adoption.
Surrogacy: This option, although expensive, is particularly attractive to single or gay men who want to have a child who is biologically related to them. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate mother’s own eggs are used and she is inseminated using sperm from one or both partners. In gestational surrogacy, another woman’s eggs are used. They are fertilised with one or both partners’ sperm before being placed in the surrogate mother’s uterus. Surrogacy in South Africa is a highly-regulated, legal agreement, and the surrogate is not permitted to profit financially from it. Once the baby is born, the surrogate mother does not have any parental rights or responsibilities towards the baby and the surrogate parents become the child’s legal parents. This can be a long process with significant medical and legal costs. People of any gender, sexual orientation or relationship status can have a child through surrogacy, if their application is granted by the high court.
Artificial insemination: Artificial insemination is allowed for single or lesbian women in South Africa. The woman is inseminated with donor sperm – that has been screened for infectious diseases. Some women who are older or have trouble conceiving may have to use in vitro fertilisation (IVF). IVF is when hormones are used to encourage the growth of many eggs at once. These are harvested, fertilised with the donor sperm, and placed back in the woman’s uterus a few days later. While artificial insemination is not a massively costly procedure, IVF is and often takes more than one attempt before a successful pregnancy occurs.
These are only a few of the options available to LGBTQIA+ people. Blended families allow for stepchildren from previous heterosexual relationships to be adopted by a new, same-sex partner. And shared parenting agreements or ‘social parenthood’ gives people the opportunity to play a significant role in a child’s life as a mentor or role model.