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HomeTalk PointIs the Surrogacy Bill 2019 unfair to women by limiting their options?

Is the Surrogacy Bill 2019 unfair to women by limiting their options?

The Rajya Sabha Wednesday deferred the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 after several members wanted modifications.

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The Rajya Sabha Wednesday deferred the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 after several members wanted modifications. The Bill seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and allow ‘altruistic’ surrogacy, limiting it only to a ‘close relative’ to be a surrogate. For a couple to opt for surrogacy, they have to be Indian citizens, married for five years and prove they are infertile.

ThePrint asks: Is the Surrogacy Bill 2019 unfair to women by limiting their options?

Allowing only close relatives to practice surrogacy is counter-productive to aim of ending womens’ exploitation

Sarojini N.
Founder and Managing Trustee, Sama

Upholding the rights of surrogates through a legislation is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill claims to fulfil this by permitting only “altruistic” surrogacy, assuming that surrogates are not paid and that allowing only a close relative to be a surrogate prevents the exploitation of surrogates. Permitting only close relatives of the couple to become surrogate mothers is counter-productive to the aim of ending exploitation of vulnerable women. Knowing the reality of patriarchal families in India, the stigma of infertility, the pressure of producing children and maintaining lineage, and the low bargaining power of women, it can be expected that young mothers will be coerced into becoming surrogates for their socially and economically better-off relatives.

Moreover, much of what has been written in the proposed legislation is limited to the binary of ‘pro’ or ‘against’ commercial surrogacy. The core issue of ensuring the rights of surrogates has been reduced to a polarised debate on the merits or demerits of altruistic versus commercial surrogacy arrangements.

Although the need for regulating the surrogacy industry is extremely valid and necessary, the bill’s provisions, unfortunately, fall short of addressing the core concern.

This surrogacy bill will help curb corruption and exploitation prevalent in this practice

Manasi Mishra
Head of Research Division, Centre for Social Research

I don’t think that the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill is acting against women. We have to pay attention to those disadvantaged women who are not able to seek help in cases of exploitation. In many cases, the rights of surrogates are compromised. They are never told how much they will be paid and are given haphazard instructions during the procedure too.

As an activist, I believe that this bill does not have problems; we can always work on amendments. It is also important to understand that we can’t demand justice for a section of society if a law safeguarding their concerns doesn’t exist.

On the question of denying women the right to practice surrogacy, I would recommend that they should opt for adoption.

I believe that this bill is not conservative in nature, and it will only help ensure healthy reproductive practices.

People have often treated commercial surrogacy as altruistic surrogacy. There have been instances of fraud wherein the surrogate mothers have been introduced as a friend or an aunt of the couple seeking surrogacy. This bill will help curb corruption prevalent in this practice.

A bill that only allows altruistic surrogacy can actually encourage conflict within families

Dr. Anoop Gupta
Infertility specialist 

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill is definitely going to limit women’s options. It will deny them the option of surrogacy and unnecessarily so. Surrogacy is not a ‘bad’ practice. The surrogates, in fact, usually put the money earned to good use.

So, I don’t understand why the government is limiting it. Medical practice in India is excellent and the cost of the surrogacy procedure is very low. What will the government gain out of banning the practice?

The bill also denies the right to those men who don’t want to marry but still have a baby. The Modi government suggests that altruistic surrogacy doesn’t cause conflict or exploitation of surrogates. However, 50 per cent of court cases related to surrogacy are fought within families. Inadvertently, a bill like this encourages conflict within families.

There is no truth to claims that there are many babies available for adoption as an alternative option. Many people are looking to adopt babies but surrogacy should also be a choice available.

I don’t believe the government’s justification that women in this practice are being exploited because one can’t force someone to be a surrogate. This bill is also depriving the LGBTQ community of this option.

This damaging bill will affect both the parties, the surrogate as well as the couple seeking surrogacy. This will hamper India’s image because, on one hand, we boast of medical excellence, and on the other hand, we proscribing surrogacy without a valid reason.

Only poor patients will be negatively affected. Rich couples can travel overseas for reproductive tourism

Dr. Hrishikesh Pai
Fertility specialist 

I believe the Surrogacy (Amendment) Bill is necessary but it can definitely be more lenient in its tonality. India needs some regulation in the area of reproductive practices.

The bill needs to be made more flexible because if it is passed in Parliament without incorporating feedback pouring in from all quarters, no doctor will want to take up any case of even “altruistic” surrogacy. It can’t be practised in its current form as it is criminalising the procedure. There’s always the risk of patients submitting wrong documents that could land a doctor into trouble.

The surrogacy cases account for only 0.5 per cent of the total IVF cases. There is very little money a medical practitioner can earn in this practice anyway.

I don’t think this bill limits women’s options because Indian women today are more empowered and aware, so they are not exploited.

The only people who will face the adverse impact of this bill will be “poor patients” opting for surrogacy. Rich couples who want to settle on this procedure always have the option of going overseas. After all, reproductive tourism is booming these days.

Women bear the brunt of family, society and doctors when they can’t conceive. This bill disempowers them more

Kairvy Grewal
Journalist, ThePrint 

When it comes to medical practices especially reproductive ones, it is always the woman’s body that has to face the brunt of these practices. The social patterns in India are such that the woman is often solely blamed for not being able to bear babies. The man finds himself far away from any tinkering by doctors. Procedures on men are usually seen as threats to their masculinity.

In this social and medical context, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill runs the risk of limiting a woman’s options of becoming a parent. Disallowing commercial surrogacy overlooks one thing – the woman’s need for privacy. In many conservative families, surrogacy is still viewed as an alien practice. But commercial surrogacy gave the woman the comfort of keeping her surrogacy a secret if she chose to.

This bill also seeks to bar single women and the LGBTQ community from opting for surrogacy. In a country where single women are eligible to adopt, have live-in partners, the fact that they may not be able to choose surrogacy is preposterous. And removing the LGBTQ community from the surrogacy rights only reinforces all the stigmas that the abolition of Article 377 sought to remove.

Also read: Commercial surrogacy: Prone to misuse or should be allowed with regulations?

By Kairvy Grewal, journalist at ThePrint 

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  1. Yes, it is. The surrogate mother should be generously rewarded for her priceless contribution to bringing happiness into a couple’s life. Her health and safety should be taken care of. Beyond that, the state has no role to play. Have often wondered how easily VVIPs get kidneys and livers on demand, cutting through a regulatory maze.

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