To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

Let me begin by telling you a story- the story of Baby Manji. She was born in the summer of 2008, to a surrogate mother- using the sperm of a Japanese man and an egg from an unknown source (reportedly a Nepali/Indian). But even before she was born, her parents had decided to part ways. The wife who wasn’t genetically linked to the baby didn’t want her, and the husband whose sperm was used to create the embryo, wanted the baby. The actual twist, however, came after her birth.

It was a catch 22 situation where Indian rules required the child to be legally adopted before leaving the country, but barred single men from adopting. And Japanese law didn’t recognize surrogacy. Hence Manji’s Japanese father was denied travel documents for the baby. In the months to follow, Baby Manji kicked up a storm and after a prolonged legal battle, the story ended well. Manji got her Japanese visa to leave India.

surrogacy-difficult-to-implement

Surrogacy isn’t really a new practice in the country. Don’t we have mythological references where Yashoda played mother to Krishna, though, Devki and Vasudev were the biological parents? In the last decade, India has been a leader and a sought after destination in surrogacy-related fertility tourism, due to the relatively low cost, with costs being roughly a third of the price compared to a procedure in the UK. We have here altruistic surrogacy, in which no charges or monetary incentive of any kind is involved. We also have commercial surrogacy which has been legally permitted since 2002, by way of giving monetary incentive in cash or kind, to the surrogate mother or her dependents or representative.

Years after Baby Manji was born, a new surrogacy regulation bill has been passed in India. But does it really answer all our questions?

The new bill would now not support commercial surrogacy, and a proposed new law would allow surrogacy only for Indian couples and not foreigners. It also bars single parents, homosexuals, live-in couples and, married woman who has at least one child of her own. Henceforth, only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years can seek a surrogate and, the surrogate must be a close relative. This bill has yet again brought the whole issue of surrogacy into limelight, with many being critical of it. Infertility specialists are of the opinion that such a law could lead to an illegal surrogacy industry. And things could just get more difficult for infertile couples for whom assisted reproductive technology provides hope. What if both the partners are single child? Whom would they turn to for a surrogate?

As a general practice and this is across the globe, we consider the woman giving birth to a child as the legal mother. But in surrogacy, the intended parents are to be recognized as the legal parents from birth, by virtue of the fact that the surrogate has signed a contract to hand over the child on birth to the commissioned parents. Not many countries in the world consider/recognize surrogacy. Luckily India is one of those few countries which recognizes surrogacy and considers the Intended/ Commissioning Parent/s as the legal parents.

I have often found the social aspects surrounding surrogacy to be complex. Well, mostly unsettled too. Various questions crop up in my mind- Who is a mother? Who is a father? Are there changes to the core definition of family? If so, is this progress?

If we do consider ourselves progressive, I wonder why many in our society aren’t in favour of adoption over surrogacy. Why is it still important to have some sort of genetic link to the child they are bringing into their lives?

I wonder why!!

*Featured Image Source: www.newsx.com

0 thoughts on “To Rent a Womb- The New Surrogacy Bill in India

  1. I didn’t know there were so many surrogacy laws, but the hardly anyone talks about it. I can see how the new laws are made keeping in mind the future of the child except for the surrogate being close relative. I can actually understand people prefering surrogacy over adoption. Frankly not every one is capable of showering unbiased love. I am not being judgemental… It’s just human nature I believe.

  2. The question haunts me as well, as, who is the mother or father. I’ve heard a couple of stories where the situation became much more complicated as the surrogate mother refused to give the baby to their biological parents. Adoption can be a simpler process and also it can provide the orphans with homes and parents…

  3. Thought provoking piece. Of course, surrogacy as a concept much like adoption, must take into account so many parameters before the couple an go through with it. I wish things were simpler especially when I see some people try desperately to have a baby and being unable to.

  4. It is very complex but I suppose the person who ends up caring and nurturing the baby would definitely be called the parents. Just by getting knocked up but not wanting to care for the child, does not mean you are the parent.

  5. It is going to be tough for homosexuals and single parents to even think of having a baby, thanks to the new rules. Wonder how long they will have to wait before their dreams (of having a baby) come true!
    Brilliant article, Ramya!

  6. It is going to be difficult for homosexuals and single parents to think of having a baby, thanks to the new rule. Wonder how long they will have to wait before their dreams come true!
    Brilliant article, Ramya!

    1. Thanks for your comments Shilpa! The new bill though restrictive as you have mentioned, I personally feel address other issues with regards to surrogate mothers who sometimes risk their lives. Nevertheless the bill needs to change a bit more along with an overhaul of the adoption law

  7. You have brought out nicely some of the complexity in this whole debate. In a way it is good that the new bill has become the reason for some in the society to talk about all these issues. I don’t think however there are any easy answers. No single bill can address all possible issues, until the people who use surrogacy as an option to have a family become responsible and socially conscientious. Yes, adoption is a much better option I agree, though there also there are many issues to straighten out, and there is a lot of abuse of adoption laws as well. Happy to read this important article here, Ramya!

    1. Agree Beloo, a single bill cant address the complexity of the issue, infact it is a bill that is pretty restrictive in many a way. You nailed it with the fact that the people need to be more socially conscious, and this must come from within one self.

  8. The new surrogacy law is certainly very restrictive and I believe the adoption law also should be updated. Overall, I think our netas should try to move into the 21st century!! 😀

  9. I understand the need for surrogacy, but I think adoption laws are what need to be fixed here as surrogacy is often a cheaper option to adoption. A mother and father are any that are willing to love and care for a child unconditionally whether they are blood relation is only secondary.

    1. legal regulations are required agree, for both surrogacy and adoption!! But at the grass root level too, we as individuals need to progress with our thoughts and views!! Thanks for your lovely comments.

  10. I agree with you . While I wouldn’t go for surrogacy, it is a great option for those couples who desperately want children and can’t . I think surrogacy is another form of outsourcing . Perhaps legislation is required to regularise and protect the rights of surrogate mothers but frankly, only poor women who are willing to rent their womb for money will suffer the ignominy of staying away from their families in “breeding labs”. Surrogacy is no easy walk in the park for surrogate mothers.

  11. I liked how you brought in various angles to this issue, Ramya. Like Beloo said, no one law can address the multiple layers of complexity that surround the topic. It’s good that we are talking about it. Good one, Ramya!

  12. Always fascinated by issues like this — how society has to catch up with advancements in science, checking the ethics, mores, and prejudices that come into question.

    1. Yes, Meg. As a society we have lots to catch up on. On one side we are advancing in science and technology, but on the other side sometimes our thoughts and views are pretty regressive.

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