India’s federal cabinet on Wednesday passed surrogacy bill which will put an end to the surrogacy industry in India. The bill proposed a complete ban on foreigners, live-in relationships, homosexual couples and single individuals. Only childless Indian couples married for a minimum of five years are only eligible for surrogacy.
The bill will apply to the whole India except Jammu and Kashmir. Before the cabinet passed the bill, a Group of Ministers (GoM) cleared the bill.
For surrogacy, eligible couples have to turn to close relatives who agree to bear the child. Many activists said this proposed bill would make an end to the unregulated rent a womb industry that exploiting poor women.
After the Union cabinet cleared the bill Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said, “We do not recognize live-in and homosexual relationships….this is against our ethos.” Swaraj who headed a group of ministers added that the law of India has not recognized homosexual couples. “Each country has to make laws that are aligned with our values, as per a legal framework.”
Also the couples who have biological or adopted children are prohibited by this Bill. India is an emerging hub of surrogacy. According to official sources, the number of surrogacy clinics in India is 3000 and annually 2,000 surrogate births taking place. In India the surrogacy business is estimated at Rs 900 crore. Now clinics will have to be registered under the law.
The government made it clear that surrogacy is only for those couples who really need it and will not be allowed to avoid labour pain. Swaraj also slammed the celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan who have children through surrogacy. She criticized the law put a complete bar to the celebrities who despite having a biological child they are commissioning surrogate children like a hobby. “Celebrities who not only have one but two children, a son and a daughter, have gone ahead with surrogacy”.
The bill also proposed that the surrogate mother has to be a married Indian woman with a biological child. Also the woman is allowed to be a surrogate only for one time.
According to the bill, the child born through surrogacy has to have the equal rights to a biological child. Abandonment of a surrogate child, exploitation of a surrogate mother, commercial surrogacy, selling and import of human embryo would lead to a punishment of at least 10 years of imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh. Also there are other provisions for an imprisonment of 5 years and fine up to Rs 10 lakh.
Health Minister J. P. Nadda stated, “We have given 10 months during which pregnancies under way now can be seen through and the babies delivered to the commissioning parents. After that all clinics will have to adhere to these new laws once Parliament passes the Bill in the next session.”
In 2002 India was the first country to legalize commercial surrogacy and India had become the ‘surrogacy capital’ by 2012. The debate regarding surrogacy started in 2008 when two week old baby Manji Yamada was left stateless after the baby’s commissioned parents divorced in Japan during the pregnancy. The commissioning mother refused to take the child. After a long legal battle the court granted the custody to the grandmother. After this case the Gujarat HC stated that there is “extreme urgency to push through legislation” which addresses such issues.
Criticism over the bill
Many doctors have not accepted the surrogate bill, said this move is not a good decision.
Dr. Nayna Patil, medical director of Akanksha Hospital and Research Institute which runs one of India’s oldest surrogacy clinics in Anand, Gujarat criticized the law, “It will result in total death of surrogacy, driving the industry underground. Infertile couples for whom assisted reproductive technology provides hope will be the worst hit. What if both the partners are single child?”
Advocate Anurag Chawla of the Delhi-based Surrogacy Laws said the law was “too tough” for the poor women who rent their womb to improve their financial condition.
Surrogacy law expert and founder of Indian Surrogacy Law Centre and Gift Life Egg bank, Chennai, Hari G Ramasubramanian said, “Surrogacy cannot be seen as illegal and immoral. The draft Bill is both draconian and unreasonable. It is a violation of the reproductive right of the surrogate mother.”
Medical director of fertility clinic Delhi IVF, Anoop Gupta condemn this law said, “It’s not a good move by the government as only those in need were being helped out through surrogacy. I haven’t seen a single woman being exploited for surrogacy.”