Health

Lok Sabha passes Surrogacy Bill amid disruptions

The Bill ensures effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibits commercial surrogacy, and allows altruistic surrogacy to needy Indian infertile couples who have been married for at least 5 years

 
By Rajat Ghai
Last Updated: Friday 21 December 2018

Representational photograph. Credit: Getty ImagesThe Lok Sabha passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, on December 19 with a voice vote amid repeated disruptions and adjournements.

The Bill ensures effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibits commercial surrogacy, and allows altruistic surrogacy to needy Indian infertile couples who have been married for at least 5 years.

Under the Bill, the surrogate mother and the intending couple need eligibility certificates from the appropriate authority. The surrogate mother must be a “close relative” of the couple who intend to have the baby through surrogacy. She must have herself borne a child, should not be a Non Resident Indian or a foreigner and can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime.

The Bill also provides for the constitution of a National Surrogacy Board, State Surrogacy Boards and appointment of appropriate authorities for regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy.

Reports suggest that foreigners find India a good option to achieve parenthood since the country has low-cost medical facilities, easy availability of women for renting their womb and virtually no law on the ground.

The ban on commercial surrogacy was proposed after a study said that there is no payment structure for surrogate mothers. This study was carried out by non-profit Centre for Social Research (CSR) with the support of the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development. It said that the surrogacy contract is signed between the surrogate mother (including her husband), the commissioning parents, but that the surrogate mothers were not given a copy of written contract of the surrogacy arrangement and they were also not aware of the clauses of the contract.

The research says that surrogate mothers mainly stayed in rented houses (96 per cent in Delhi and 90 per cent in Mumbai). In Delhi, 44 per cent of the respondents had sanitary lavatories while in Mumbai only 24 per cent of the respondents had the facility. Seventy-six per cent respondents in Delhi and 44 per cent in Mumbai had access to water supply.

"It is a very sad day for infertile couples and surrogate mothers. Science has advanced today. It is possible to have a child even if you are infertile. Other countries have subsequently liberalised rules related to surrogacy. India too was doing a wonderful job. But now, with this Bill, all that has been reversed," Nayana H Patel, surrogacy and infertility expert and medical director of Akanksha Hospital and Research Institute at Anand in Gujarat told Down To Earth. 

Anand had developed as a hub of commercial surrogacy in the past few years. "This Bill has been passed without taking into account the stakeholders involved here, namely the infertile couples and surrogate mothers," Patel added.

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