INDIA’S SURROGACY INDUSTRY: NEED FOR REGULATION


Surrogacy is a method of reproduction whereby a woman (referred to as surrogate) agrees to carry a pregnancy and give birth as a substitute for the contracted party/ies. Surrogacy may be Natural (traditional / Straight) or Gestational.

Surrogacy

Surrogacy: The Hired Womb

India is fast emerging as the ‘surrogacy capital of the world’ with a $445 million business in ‘fertility tourism’. A burgeoning number of poor Indian women are turning paid surrogates for childless foreign couples. Fuelling the surrogacy service from India are a slew of factors, including low medical costs, a highly qualified medical workforce and lax surrogacy laws.

A debate over whether the unregulated industry exploits poor women prompted authorities to draft a law that could make it tougher for foreigners seeking babies made in India.

Evolution of Surrogacy in India

India opened up to commercial surrogacy in 2002. It is among just a handful of countries – including Georgia, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine – and a few U.S. states where women can be paid to carry another’s genetic child through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.

The low-cost technology, skilled doctors, scant bureaucracy and a plentiful supply of surrogates have made India a preferred destination for fertility tourism, attracting nationals from Britain, the United States, Australia and Japan, to name a few.

There are no official figures on how large the fertility industry is in India. A U.N.-backed study in July 2012 estimated the surrogacy business at more than $400 million a year, with over 3,000 fertility clinics across India.

Controversy over Surrogacy

India’s surrogacy industry is vilified by women’s rights groups who say fertility clinics are nothing more than “baby factories” for the rich. In the absence of regulation, they say many poor and uneducated women are lured by agents, hired by clinics, into signing contracts they do not fully understand.

In 2012, surrogate mother Premila Vaghela, 30, died days after delivering a child for an American couple at a clinic in Gujarat. It was recorded as an “accidental death” by police.

A recent government-funded study of 100 surrogate mothers in Delhi and Mumbai found there was “no fixed rule” related to compensation and no insurance for post-delivery healthcare. It cited cases where surrogates were implanted with embryos multiple times to raise the chances of success.

The Need for Regulation

With the country becoming a hub for surrogacy, there is an urgent need for a rights based legal framework to regularize it. The unregulated reproductive tourism industry of ‘procreating’ through surrogacy is rapidly increasing in India while there is still no legal provision to safeguard the interests of all the major stakeholders involved in the surrogacy arrangement i.e. the surrogate mother, the child or the commissioning parents feels Centre for Social Research (CSR).

According to the study conducted by Centre for Social Research in 2011-12, it was revealed that though the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Bill, 2010 did bring forth certain important points for the legal framework to be based on; it has left out many crucial issues relating to surrogacy arrangements.

Government Initiatives

Recent meetings on March 6 and 7 of departments and ministries of the Government of India, to discuss and review divergent views on the draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2013 (ART Bill), have resulted in a proposal to revise the Bill with significant changes. The most crucial proposal is to restrict surrogacy in India to “infertile Indian married couples” only. Non-resident Indians (NRIs), Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs) and Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) would be eligible but foreigners, unless they’re married to Indian citizens, will not. The purpose of this is to prevent exploitation of Indian women who may be tempted to take the risk of surrogacy in the face of financial hardships.

Legislation should be there so that this wonderful procedure can be supervised and it is being done by the right people for the right people.But more bureaucracy will make it difficult for everyone. It will not only mean less commissioning parents from overseas but it will also impact surrogates, who will lose out on the only chance they have to change their lives for the better.

Team Aspirant Forum

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