The Narendra Modi government Monday reintroduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 in the Lok Sabha. The bill seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and allow only close relatives to act as surrogates for “ethical altruistic” reasons. The bill mandates that only married couples who haven’t been able to conceive for five years can opt for surrogacy.
ThePrint asks: Commercial surrogacy: Prone to misuse or should be allowed with regulations?
Commercial surrogacy is women’s agency, and they are exercising it for their benefit
Health and gender activist
The proposed bill will do more harm than good by banning commercial surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy should be allowed with good strong regulation and oversight. it is important to note the context under which women opt to be surrogate mothers. It’s a choice conditioned by socio-economic considerations. For some women, surrogacy is a safer and better option than the other ones available,such as underpaid domestic work. It is an outcome of their own agency.
While it is undoubtedly true that there have been cases of exploitation, better laws and regulations – not outright banning of the practice – should be the way forward.
This notion of ‘ethical altruistic’ surrogacy should also be viewed from be seen as a propagation of a narrow view of what constitutes a family- only a heterosexual married couple.
Moreover, this binary of non-exploitation and exploitation is also false, because the bill automatically assumes that if only close relatives are allowed to be surrogates, all exploitation will vanish. However, well documented pressures and exploitative situation exist within Indian families too.
This bill will only push the practice of commercial surrogacy underground. if operated without oversight it will just make women even more vulnerable to exploitation. It’s also important to recognise that within altruistic surrogacy, the women will not be compensated for the reproductive labor.
Also read: Restricting surrogacy to relatives won’t work, doctors say as bill is tabled in Lok Sabha
The sacred bond between a mother & child cannot be sold in international marketplace
Lawyer & RSS member
Surrogacy on a commercial scale makes absolutely no sense. It is repugnant on moral as well as religious grounds. The mother and her child share a bond that is greater than anything else. This sacred bond cannot be sold in the international marketplace.
If this is allowed, there is a possibility that women in the West, who clearly have low moral values or little in terms of familial institutions, will rent the wombs of Indian women for money. It will then become a source of easy money as many women from lower-income groups in India might want to opt for something like this.
Therefore, a statutory framework should be put in place whereby women who sell their wombs for money are proscribed and punished. Furthermore, even those who try and buy the wombs of people in India should be proscribed as well.
If we want to encourage the right moral values in the future generation, then as a society we ought to not allow practices based on decadent Western values to gain provenance in India. It will lead to civilisational decay that will be disastrous in the long run.
Also read: Another adoption controversy hits Bhopal agency Udaan, this time it’s from Bahrain
‘Altruistic’ surrogacy doesn’t hold weight in practical world. It just puts a family in a complex situation
Founder and director, Become Parents surrogacy agency
The surrogacy bill is in many ways a draconian measure. The Modi government has not taken into consideration the major stakeholders who will be affected by this law – the parents, the doctors, the surrogate themselves who benefit from this option. The government has also ignored the opinions of its own high-powered committee, comprising doctors, parents, and people working at ground level.
There are many reasons why commercial surrogacy should be allowed. Firstly, India has witnessed a rise in infertility cases. Over the last 10 years, the number of infertility and surrogacy clinics have gone up from a few handful to over 2,000. So, the government, through a measure that bans commercial surrogacy, is taking away a couple’s right to start a family.
Secondly, commercial surrogacy is legal in all Western countries. It also provides economic benefits to the surrogate mother. For instance, a surrogate mother in India gets paid around Rs 4-5 lakh, which is about four times the national average wage. This is much higher when compared to the US, where a surrogate mother gets paid about half the national average wage.
Even if the government wants to act strict against commercial surrogacy, it should pass a law that is at least friendly towards the stakeholders. The concept of ‘altruistic’ surrogacy also doesn’t hold weight in the practical world. It just puts a family in a more complex situation, especially when you consider the mindset of Indians when it comes to surrogacy. And when you make something illegal, a section of people is going to come up and misuse the law.
Commercial surrogacy has exploited women and there is no law to protect them
Senior advocate, Supreme Court
I had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court in 2015, asking for the commercial surrogacy to be banned. I spent a lot of time reading articles in Marathi, Hindi and English magazines talking about how commercial surrogacy is extremely exploitative in nature. These articles really moved me and, as a lawyer who has been practising in the Supreme Court for over 42 years, I felt like I was in a position of power and privilege to help voice the concerns of women who are affected by the exploitative nature of commercial surrogacy. I realised that there was no law to protect them, and therefore something needed to be done to help these women.
I am sure many women who have been surrogates in the past may say that it helped them earn money, but what people don’t realise is that even begging helps earn money in one way or another. This doesn’t mean that begging is a better option for the person doing it than actually earning a living through a job.
Unethical and violative practices must be challenged and this is what the bill plans to do. Now it is up to Parliament to take a decision based on the evidence.
By Fatima Khan and Shauryavardhan Sharma.
Imagine the joy of a couple that can become parents through advances in medical science, surrogacy being one such breakthrough. Subject to high standards of health and safety being ensured for the surrogate mother, there should be no legal restrictions.
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