Friday, August 26, 2016

Surrogacy must stop its commercialization
In a move that has been widely criticized as being too harsh, and possibly discriminatory, the Union Cabinet has announced that it has cleared the draft Surrogacy Regulation Bill (2016) that will regulate surrogacy in India. The proposed law completely bans commercial surrogacy and allows only for altruistic surrogacy i.e. where the surrogate mother has to be married and a close relative of the couple involved. This move appears to be in response to concerns that the commercial surrogacy that industry has flourished in India, and is regulated by the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines, has resulted in exploitative conditions for women, many of who are poor. Many civil society groups has raised questions related to the margin of profit that surrogacy centres were making in comparison to the benefits the surrogate mothers received and whether the surrogate mothers were signing contracts to rent out their wombs with informed consent. However, instead of looking of ways to regulate this industry and ensure a better deal for surrogate mothers, the government’s proposed law will completely shut down commercial surrogacy.
The government has, through an earlier version of the bill last year, proposed that foreign nationals not be allowed to avail of surrogacy services in India. This had led to a group of commercial surrogate mothers challenging this move in the Supreme Court. The final version of the bill, which the government has just unveiled, is a much more drastic one, extending the ban not just to foreign nationals, but to all single people, same sex couples, and live in partners, and married couples who have biological or adopted children from availing of surrogacy. The move seems to be blatantly discriminatory, and assumes that only a very small subset of married couples should be allowed to have children through surrogacy. Union Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who briefed the press after the Cabinet meeting stated that unmarried couples, single parents and same sex couples are being barred from having children through surrogacy because this is against “Indian ethos”. Swaraj even took a swipe at celebrities who have had surrogate children although they already have children of their own claiming that this was now becoming “fashionable”. Swaraj went on to say that foreigners, NRIs and those who hold PIO and OCI cards would be barred from availing of surrogacy in India because “divorces are common in foreign countries”.

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