(The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, which bans commercial surrogacy was passed in Lok Sabha on 05.08.2019. This article, which was first published on 21.12.2018, is being reposted in light of it)
When the idea of the surrogacy bill was conceived, Sushma Swaraj very categorically stated that homosexuals would not get the permission to go in for surrogacy.
According to her, “this is against Indian ethos”. At that time, Section 377 was in our legal system in its draconian, vile form and was used as a justification for prejudice. Now times have changed, we are in a new world where we breathe the air of freedom to be and freedom to make love consensually with fellow adult humans in private.
Ideally, this should have resulted in a string of laws and reformatory methods by the Parliament. The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill and the Surrogacy Bill are not a step in that direction.
Speaking about the Surrogacy Bill, or rather, the anti-surrogacy Bill, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is not just myopic in its approach but also very superficial and timid when it comes to the frankness of its intent. Here are some questions:
Is This a Bill for Protecting Surrogate Mothers from Exploitation?
The government has shown no plan in rehabilitation of surrogate mothers. What happens to families who are earning a livelihood through surrogacy? What about the free will of persons who wish to offer their wombs to carry the child?
If we would argue that they are forced to do so because of dire circumstances and looming poverty, how exactly is the government planning to counter this gloom? What are the alternate income schemes for surrogate mothers and their families? If there are none, how dare they remove their chance for earning a livelihood without a concrete rehabilitation plan?
Here’s a video by The Quint that shows us what some of the surrogate mothers want.
Does the Govt Really Think Non-Heterosexual Non-Cis Gendered People Don’t Make Good Parents?
During the introduction of the Bill in 2016, the over enthusiastic Sushma Swaraj stated that homosexuals will not be allowed to explore surrogacy because it is against Indian ethos. This was in the pre-Section 377 era when it was still illegal to engage in penetrative sexual relations with members of the same sex. The law had a ripple effect and one of the results was a prejudiced mindset. But now times have changed and Section 377 has been read down. When does Sushma plan to re-calibrate her thoughts and eat her words?
The honourable Supreme Court has put the onus on the government to ensure that Section 377 verdict is propagated and a plan for reforms is set. This bill is anti-everything that was asked from the government.
There is enough research in the west to prove that LGBTIQ parents are as good as heterosexual cis-gendered parents. Some research actually states that they are better parents.
The fact that the kids and the parents are aware of the fact that their life-story is different, makes them well equipped to accept themselves and be prepared for questions that they may be asked. Queer persons falter too. The onus should not be on us to prove that we are better parents.
I refuse to be held on a pedestal of high standards. The onus is definitely on the wide world to ensure that you are better human beings who respect others’ humanity without prejudice. Sushma Swaraj fails miserably with her Indian ethos statement in this category. She deserves a crash course in Indianism. Because in my opinion, my nation is definitely one that respects people for who they are without a shred of doubt.
Sushmaji, queer persons are not superheroes, even though some of us wear invincible and invisible rainbow capes.
Here is some research reading for your really tired mind.
Are We Really Expecting Relatives to Help Carry Babies with This Version of the Surrogacy Bill?
This Bill allows for surrogacy provided the cis-gendered heterosexual couple is proven to be clinically infertile and has no children. Also, the child would have to be borne by a close relative in the family.
The Telegraph did a wonderful tongue-in-cheek piece after Sushma’s draft of the Bill. The article uses surrogacy with practical examples using a film as a backdrop. Or in the Hindutva flavour, is this their version of how Hindu goddesses carry or foster the children of other goddesses as their own?
Whatever the tangled web that is being woven here, it does show that the government has no spine to say that they squarely are against surrogacy. They have just come up with convoluted unachievable solutions to hide their incapability to put forth their real intent of banning surrogacy and being discriminatory to the queer community.
What is Fashion Surrogacy After All?
Sushma Swaraj and Kakoli Ghosh seem to be obsessed with the examples of the rich and famous. I will defend to death my view of Karan Johar and Tushar Kapoor to be parents. And so will I for Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan. It doesn’t matter queer or straight. How dare someone call their children a fashion statement?
Single persons and unions of all genders and sexualities have parenting abilities. Especially if they are single and belong to marginalised or ostracised communities, they could be even more doting for they are more focussed on parenting. I am not saying this, research is.
Why Don’t We Boost Queer Adoption as an Alternative?
I am truly fed up about the obsession with taking the gene pool forward. I seriously would prefer people going for adoption rather than surrogacy. I have no right though to impose my view on others. Children’s homes are filled to the brim. Parallelly, there is science that proves that queer persons make good parents.
Why don’t we ensure that the law is relaxed and more accommodating of queer persons? It helps children get happy homes. And with this the government could also get a happy high from the lowly discriminatory mindset.
Why Not Bring Better Regulation Rather Than Setting a Bill on the Best Case Scenario and Not the Worst Case?
Yes, there have been cases of one of the twin children being abandoned, surrogate moms being exploited, disabled children being abandoned. However, there are enough cases of surrogate children living happy sheltered lives. How about a change in thought, how about bringing in regulation for propagating the right practices instead of banning? Truth be told, banning only leads to things going underground and more harassment.
The honourable Supreme Court in the historic 6 September verdict on Section 377, reinforced the values of liberal democracy that champions individual rights and faith in plurality back into the bloodstream of our legal framework. The court was humble enough to apologise to LGBTIQ persons. One of the directives to the government by the Supreme Court was to work on ensuring that the knowledge of the verdict reaches everyone. This Bill is antagonistic to that pragmatic view of equality and positive advocacy.
(Harish Iyer is an equal rights activist working for the rights of the LGBT community, women, children and animals.)
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. FIT neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)