In a potentially ground-breaking ruling, a Bangkok court has granted paternity rights of 13 surrogate babies to Mitsutoki Shigeta, a 28-year-old Japanese man who, in 2014, was discovered to have fathered at least 16 babies in Thailand via surrogates. The decision allows Mr. Shigeta, who was not present at the trial, to pursue custody of the children as he was awarded “sole parent” rights when the Thai surrogates forfeited their parenting rights.
“For the happiness and opportunities which the 13 children will receive from their biological father, who does not have a history of bad behavior, the court rules that all 13 born from surrogacy to be legal children of the plaintiff,” Bangkok’s Central Juvenile Court said in a statement.
Shigeta has become a controversial father figure in Thailand since 2014 when he was investigated by Interpol on suspicion of human trafficking when they discovered he was the father of 16 surrogate children in Thailand. Not long after, his Bangkok apartment was raided by the police, who found “nine surrogate babies, nannies, and a pregnant surrogate mother.” Shigeta left Thailand soon after but he ended up suing the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security for custody of the children. He was awarded custody of three of his surrogate children in 2015 and now has won the chance to pursue full custody of his remaining 13 children.
The developing story of Shigeta’s unconventional method for forming a family sheds an interesting light on the uncertainty surrounding surrogate parenting, as it is still a relatively new phenomenon and logistical details can get murky quick. Not much is known about the eccentric Shigeta beyond the fact that he is unmarried and the son of a rich entrepreneur, which is why he could afford so many surrogates. Shigeta insists that he wants to raise the kids as his own and has already set up funds for them to ensure they are all taken care of financially.
Since discovering Shigeta’s high number of surrogates, Thailand has banned commercial surrogacy for foreigners.