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Haryana khaps practiced eugenics, produced world-class athletes: BJP MP says in Rajya Sabha

Rajya Sabha passed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, which regulates fertility clinics, and Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill.

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New Delhi: Fixing the maximum age of parents in medical procedures to address infertility and provisions for testing embryo for genetic disorders amount to “partial eugenics” and they can help prevent the birth of diseased children, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajya Sabha member D.P. Vats said in the Parliament Wednesday.

Vats further said Khaps in Haryana also practiced eugenics which, according to him, helped produce healthy athletes for the country. Khaps, or Khap panchayats, are clan-based Kangaroo courts that are popular in Haryana. Vats has been an old supporter of them. 

He spoke in the Upper House during a debate on the ART (Regulation) Bill 2021, and the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020, even as other Rajya Sabha MPs flagged concerns in the bills such as lack of clarity on conditions such as “tokophobia” (fear of pregnancy) and “discrimination” towards the LGBTQ community. 

Both bills were passed in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday. 

Also read: Priyanka Chaturvedi steps down as Sansad TV anchor, days after Rajya Sabha suspension

Khaps and eugenics

The ART Bill essentially seeks to regulate fertility clinics and requires them to be registered under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India. Assisted reproductive technology broadly mean medical procedures used to address infertility, which involves in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection, cryopreservation of gametes or embryos, and use of other fertility medications.

Eugenics, meanwhile, is a term used for the practice and advocacy of improving the human species by selectively mating people with specific desirable hereditary traits, aiming to reduce human suffering by diseases, disabilities and so-called undesirable characteristics. It is a controversial subject across the world.

Vats, who is a former Army doctor from Haryana, said: “Raising a family is an important aspect of life in India. India is facing a lot of burden in terms of infertility… Infertility brings low morale. Even in the Armed Forces we have such couples… In ART, there are provisions under which (the) embryo has to be tested for congenital and genetic disorders.”

“Fixing the age of the parents to the maximum of 45 and 55 (years) also amounts to partial eugenics because there are reports that even ladies aged 70 (years) can conceive and deliver. Now, eugenics needs to be looked into because we need not produce diseased children,” said Vats, who has served as the chief of the Haryana Public Service Commission.

“Eugenics have been practiced even in Haryana by khap panchayats, which prevent marrying in close relations,” Vats further said. “That is why Haryana has produced the maximum number of healthy people and athletes, and our share (of) Olympics, Commonwealth (Games) and Asian (Games) medals (is the highest) … Doctors will be able to test and prevent any genetic disease.”

Surrogacy bill passed 

While the ART Bill on was passed in the Lok Sabha last week, the surrogacy bill was passed in the lower House in August 2019, but eventually sent to a Select Committee, which recommended that a bill concerning regulation of assisted reproductive technology be brought in first.

Under the surrogacy bill, only infertile Indian married couples between the ages of 23-50 for women, and 26-55 for men can be considered for surrogacy. 

“The bills in their current form do not accommodate concerns such as tokophobia, which relates to fear of childbirth. This is more of a psychological condition that ultimately leads to inability to conceive a child… I appeal for inclusion of such mental conditions in the scope of the bill,” said Amar Patnaik, a Rajya Sabha member of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) from Odisha. 

“The bills are also narrow in their definition of couple — and broadly cater to heterosexual married individuals. What happens to unmarried people? The bills are silent on LGBTQ couples,” said Patnaik, citing examples of countries such as Australia, Nepal, Israel and Vietnam which, he said, have assisted reproductive technology services that are more inclusive.

Assam MP Ajit Bhuyan too flagged concerns regarding lack of inclusivity when it comes to LGBTQ+ people.

Alla Ayodhya Rami Reddy, Rajya Sabha MP of the YSR Congress Party from Andhra Pradesh, called the bills “moral and ethical piece of legislation”, adding: “The need is to recognise surrogacy as a right and not just a need.”

Thambi Durai, Rajya Sabha member of the AIADMK, said the bills would help people belonging to economically weaker sections and encourage research in the assisted reproduction field even as he flagged concerns in grievance redressal.

Kanakamedala Ravindra Kumar, a Rajya Sabha member of the Telugu Desam Party, urged the government to remove clauses in the bills which, he said, requires couples to wait for five years before going for assisted reproductive technology services.

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: After Modi says ‘red cap is red alert’, SP MPs flaunt theirs at protest against RS suspensions


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