As KJo Becomes a Father, Surrogacy Bill May Come in Way of Others

Even as Karan Johar steps into fatherhood, the Surrogacy Bill may come in the way of others, writes Dr Nayana Patel.

4 min read
How can the state decide whether commercial surrogacy is leading to the exploitation of women? (Photo: iStockphoto)

The much-awaited 2016 Surrogacy Bill approved by the Union cabinet on 24 August was, expectedly, disappointing for infertile couples and surrogates. Along withcommercial surrogacy, surrogacy stands banned for foreigners and OCI cardholders, homosexuals, unmarried couples, live-in partners and single parents.

TheBill completely ignores the many thousands of lives who have so far been helpedby this noble procedure. The so-called misuse of surrogacy by some celebritiesshould not be the reason to ban the procedure.

While celebrities can go abroad and spend huge amounts of money to get surrogate babies, infertile Indian couples should not be penalised. I consider the ban a regressive step on the part of the Narendra Modi-led government as it would be tougher to regulate the process. So, the government chose the easy way out.

The Bill was drafted on the lines of the legislation on organ donation, according to which a brother, a husband, a father or a mother can donate, giving people a wider range of options.

In the case of surrogacy, only a young woman among close relatives can help an infertile couple, which limits choices. Besides, for innumerable unfortunate couples this may not be an option, which literally shuts the surrogacy door on them.

Dr Nayana Patel at her infertility centre, Anand, Gujarat. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="!prettyPhoto">Akanksha Infertility Clinic</a>)
Dr Nayana Patel at her infertility centre, Anand, Gujarat. (Photo Courtesy: Akanksha Infertility Clinic)

Do the Surrogates Feel Exploited?

Over the past few years, surrogacy and surrogates have beendescribed in uncharitable terms. Those who are ignorant about this process haveeven compared the moral act of surrogacy with prostitution.

While manyfeminists have made noises on the “exploitation” of surrogates, others have aproblem with the compensation given to economically weaker surrogates,considering it as sale of motherhood. These are some of the reasons whysurrogacy is faces the challenges it does.

Amid the high-octane debate surrounding surrogacy, nobody gave athought to the opinions held by surrogates. Do they feel exploited? Has theprocedure empowered them? In most of the cases the noise-makers have beenarmchair commentators.

There is no consideration for the question – why do people have a problem if surrogates receive compensation in the form of cash for the act of giving parenthood to infertile couples? It should not be seen merely as a commercial procedure because many kinds and layers of emotions are involved in the surrogacy process.

The public at large and the media have used uncalled for expressionssuch as “womb on rent” or “baby for sale” to describe surrogacy. It is harsh touse such phrases, especially when the government, in its endeavour to pass thisretrograde Bill, has never tried to go to the core of the matter or the socialreality associated with surrogacy.


Exhorting Women to have more Babies

By practicing surrogacy, many poor women have been able toeducate their children, have begun businesses and have financially strengthenedtheir own families. But in India, where surrogacy is branded as a stigma, andinfertile women are considered a curse that breaks marriages, the practicehas aided as a bond that has held together many families.

Some surrogacy opponentsadvocate their views by citing India’s high maternal mortality rates which, inturn, are explained by the burden that the bodies of surrogate mothers carry.

Onthe other hand, chief of an orthodox group exhortedHindu women to have more children. How come this is not exploitationwhereas poor women who use their reproductive systems to create life for othersis.

Bill is Discriminatory

Besides, many opponents of surrogacy say that infertile couplesshould go for adoption. Who are we to say what choices infertile couples wishto make? Why just infertile couples, even fertile couples can adopt babiesbesides having their own. If they could have their own biological children, whoare political leaders to decide what choices hapless infertile couples make?Sections of the Indian society certainly have double standards.

Apart from infertile couples, the Bill is discriminatory towardsgay minorities and single parents. Sexuality and getting married is a matter ofindividual choice. In a healthy and robust society, there cannot be anyinterference by the state on such choices, especially when reproducing is everyindividual’s right.

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

Banning is Not the Solution

It came as a big surprise when the central government took thedecision to ban surrogacy for OCIs and PIOs. After all, their roots lie inIndia, they have the right to exercise their franchise. And yet, they are now beingforbidden from opting for medical treatment and surrogacy. Has the essence of theconcept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam eroded?

Many western countries, including the United States, allowsurrogacy. Countries such as Canada and Israel have taken steps to make surrogacya legal practice. However, in India, where it was legal and flourishing, thegovernment has stepped in to ban the practice. It could be mere coincidence, butthe proposed ban on surrogacy in India and its legalisation in many foreigncountries has taken place in a very short span of time.

As Karan Johar steps into fatherhood with the birth of twins though the surrogacy route, others may not be allowed to avail the rent-a-womb facility in India soon. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, pending with a parliamentary committee, will put a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy; it also bars homosexuals and singles from taking the surrogacy route, and has been termed ‘draconian’ by activists and doctors. The Quint is re-publishing this article from its archives. It was first published on 26 August 2016.

(The writer is founder and medical director of Akanksha Hospital and Research Institute, Anand, Gujarat. This views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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