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Hidden Message in Surrogacy Bill: Beti ki Jaldi Shaadi Karvao!

In the age of ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ why is the surrogacy regulation bill so regressive, asks Ravina Raj Kohli.

Published
Opinion
4 min read
In the age of ‘beti bachao, beti padhao’ why is the surrogacy bill so regressive? (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/ <b>The Quint</b>)

Sometimes, women like me make bad choices. Or at least as you put it, dear ministers, we act “against the Indian ethos”.

Some of us don’t marry because we don’t find the right man. Marriage is no longer the only goal a young Indian woman has in her life. Having an identity and the financial and emotional strength to make her own choices is more of a priority than being plonked into a doli, saying boo-hoo for a while to the drunk marriage party and ending up miserable in some alien man’s home just to ‘be married’.

Young women are choosing a good education over early marriage and early motherhood or is that being ‘un-Indian’?

Some of us are ambitious and capable enough in our careers to want to excel. We end up postponing motherhood, often to a point when our corporate battle-weary bodies just say no to natural conception.

You see, we are inspired today to be individuals and not just women at work. And yes, our typical ladla Indian man, true to our Indian ethos, hasn’t yet grown up enough to understand that being a ‘stay-at-home dad’ won’t make him flaccid.  “Mummy daantegi?”

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Union minister Sushma Swaraj in her recent statement has said surrogacy for homosexual couples is not in our ethos. (Photo: Reuters)
Union minister Sushma Swaraj in her recent statement has said surrogacy for homosexual couples is not in our ethos. (Photo: Reuters)

Can Adoption be an Alternative?

At times, we marry the man of our dreams or our parents’ dreams for that matter, and find ourselves compromised enough to prefer to be single. And so you see, instead of going to the Disneyland in our thirties and forties, we go against the Indian ethos again and become ‘divorcees’.

Kati Patangs. Giri hui aurats. Easy prey for women with sindhoor on their heads to try and make us feel low with their unhappy married tongues. Worse still, are the men who think we are up for grabs.( Chee.!) Ek chutki sindhoor or the lack of it have both done us in.

It’s enough to make you want to live on your own forever.

So when our hearts and bodies want us to become mothers, we are left with no choice but to ask a surrogate to produce our baby.  But we are Indian women, you see, and we did it all wrong. So be damned. It’s the Rule of the Righteous.

I agree, adoption is a wonderful option. It gives an unwanted child a future. But try adoption as single women in India if you are not Sushmita Sen. Or some rich  person who can circumvent the process without going through the ‘counselling’ that predetermines your eligibility.

I have been through it, at the top of my career. This was a time when I had been through a few of the circumstances explained above, and decided I wanted a life with just “Baby and Me”. It’s indescribably heartbreaking to realise that  if you live alone, as a woman who broke all the “Indian” rules, you will fail the motherhood test.  (Sushmita, I was told, was “allowed” because her mother lives with her.)

And you have a boyfriend???? Oh. That doesn’t help. “Will he support the child???”. “No. He doesn’t need to.” “Oh”.

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Only Typical Indian Women Can be Mothers

I am sure the disappointment of failed conception, failed IVF, a failed marriage are heart wrenching.  But nothing beats the feelings of failure you have to fight when you are told you can’t be a mother because you are not a typical Indian woman. Whatever that may mean. And now the law must surrender to the Indian ethos? Says who?

Apologies for not being a flawless woman. And apologies for questioning any Bill that is a land mine for proposed parenthood as a single female. But how dare anyone question my Indian ethos?

I have done everything my very Indian parents and very Indian family believed to be acceptable in our very Indian way; except marry an Indian man when I was “supposed to”.

Does our foreign exposure and acceptance of other cultures make us any less Indian at heart?  Did all the women and men in our inspiration, be it in our scriptures or our history, always conform?

Why then is there a shadow of ‘ethos’ on my wish to be a mother, or an age limit to my happiness, a boundary to my eligibility, and worse, a law that makes me constantly believe I must regress appropriately to be on the right side of it? No. I should have married in my twenties and been through all the struggles you say qualifies me for being a mother in your Bill.

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Un-Indian Ways

This is the age of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, is it not? So then why can’t another beti of this country carry my baby if I don’t have a man to call my husband. She may well want to use the financial benefit to ‘bachao’ and educate herself. Or support her needy family. Or simply live her life. Or is that role play for a woman un-Indian too?

If the adoption racket and ‘baby sellers’ exist, it’s because you have made it impossible for a woman who lives alone and earns alone to adopt a baby. And now, with the new surrogacy law, you are making it impossible for her to ask another woman to help her have her own.

Your message here seems to be ‘Beti ko ghar bithao aur jaldi shaadi karvao’. Padhao and bachao may lead to un-Indian ways. To be a mother in India, conform or be damned.

(The writer is a media professional. She can be reached at @ravinarajkohli)

Also read:
Surrogacy Ban: State Should Stay out of an Individual’s Choice
InfoGraphiQ: What Do Nations Around the World Think of Surrogacy?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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