Wombs Not for Rent
General Studies 1: Social empowerment
General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
In News: Union cabinet has given its nod to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, paving way for the regulation of surrogacy by setting up National Surrogacy Board at the centre. The proposed legislation seeks to ensure –
- Effective regulation of surrogacy
- Prohibit commercial surrogacy
- Allows altruistic surrogacy to the needy Indian infertile couples
- Rein in unethical practices so that the exploitation of commercial mothers is stopped
National Surrogacy Board: Post its enactment by the Parliament, the National Surrogacy Board will be constituted at the central level, while the states and Union Territories will constitute the State Surrogacy Boards and State Appropriate Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central Government.
Note: It will apply to whole of India, except for Jammu and Kashmir.
Why is it important?
India has emerged a hub for infertility treatment, attracting people from the world over with its state-of-the-art technology and competitive prices initially to treat infertility.
- With the prevailing socio-economic inequities, underprivileged women found an option to ‘rent their wombs’ and thereby make money to take care of their expenses — often to facilitate a marriage, enable children to get education, or provide for hospitalisation or surgery for someone in the family.
- The demand also picked up and unscrupulous middle men inveigled themselves into the scene, and the exploitation of women began. Several instances began to emerge and there was an increase in the rate of filing police complaints for –
- Unethical practices
- Exploitation of surrogate mothers
- Abandonment of children born out of surrogacy
- Rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes
Points of Contention:
Surrogacy will only be allowed to Indian couples, who have been married for five years or more, in case one of the partners is infertile.
- The law not only bans singles and homosexuals from having surrogate children, it also makes it difficult for heterosexual couples with medical indication for surrogacy.
- The decision to keep live-in partners out of the purview of the bill is indicative of the fact that it is not in consonance with the present day social milieu and is too narrow in its understanding
Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees “equality before the law and equal protection of laws to all persons”. Article 21 guarantees “protection of life and personal liberty of all persons”. Restricting conditional surrogacy to married Indian couples and disqualifying others on the basis of nationality, marital status, sexual orientation or age, does not appear to qualify the test of equality and has no connection with the intended objectives of the proposed legislation.
The surrogate mother needs to be a close relative of the couple, who has been married and already has a child.
Doctors say the law will send surrogacy underground, and there will always be possibilities of blackmail within families. In Indian marital homes, the decision-making power rarely rests with women and not so privileged or financially weak relatives who can be coerced into becoming surrogate mothers with absolutely no bargaining power.
No payment of any sort other than medical expenses will be allowed
Pregnancy is not a one minute job but a labour of nine months with far reaching implications regarding a woman’s health, her time and her family. It should be a woman’s right to be ‘reasonably and adequately compensated’ for their reproductive labour.
- Given the patriarchal character of the Indian family, this demanded altruism may reinforce the idea that a woman’s body is not her own.
- The yardsticks governing domestic altruistic surrogacy will offer an opportunity for corruption and exploitation, pushing surrogacy into unethical hands. It could foster an underground abusive trade in surrogacy.
The pursuit of happiness is founded upon autonomy and dignity, and more so when we are talking about ‘women’.
- The setting up of a national registry of assisted reproductive technology clinics and banks is a good step towards ensuring a creation of a central database and accountability for the actions. Through this, details of these clinics and banks, including the nature and type of services provided by them, can be obtained on a regular basis, and the loopholes could be better managed and plugged.
- The best safeguards for surrogates would be empowerment rather than relying on the market or the state for protection.
- Instead of banning commercial surrogacy, the government should work towards
Connecting the Dots:
- What are the issues involved with respect to surrogacy? Examine.