Ban on surrogacy in India

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“Rhonda Wile and her husband Gerry struggled for years with infertility. With perseverance that shocked everyone around them, they tried every procedure and option available — unsuccessfully — until they finally decided to hire a surrogate. While surrogacy was being touted as a miracle for hopeful parents, for Rhonda and Gerry, it seemed an impossible and unaffordable dream. Until they came across the beaming smile of a beautiful Indian woman on the Internet. And, within a few short months, embarked on a journey that would take them deep into the emerging world of Indian carriers, international medical tourism, and the global surrogacy community.”

The desire to procreate is a very fundamental attribute of the human race. Unfortunately, many are denied the joy of parenthood due to several reasons, biological or otherwise. Developments in reproductive sciences and technologies have helped transcend the barriers to parenthood.

Surrogacy has evolved as a plausible mode of bringing a child into this world, for couples who cannot have children biologically. India, in particular has been an ideal destination in the recourse to surrogacy for foreign couples who crave for a child.

In an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Government said that it “does not support commercial surrogacy. No foreigners can avail surrogacy services in India,” adding that surrogacy would be available “only for Indian couples”. I wish I understood this statement even slightly. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Surrogacy has been a means of earning large sums of money in a relatively short span, for women who would otherwise earn their livelihood from cooking or cleaning in others’ homes, or from selling vegetables or other random, unstable, odd jobs.

Mamta Sharma, 29, from Uttar Pradesh, has been a surrogate mother twice, most recently last year for an Australian couple.

“Everything has changed in my life with the money I got,” said the mother of four children who invested her earnings in a new house.

Seitha Thapa, recounts her experience of giving birth at the Surrogacy Centre India clinic in New Delhi last February, for a foreign couple:

“I wanted to be a surrogate mother because I wanted to deposit money into an account for my children for their future. I also wanted to help parents who cannot have children, I am proud to have given birth to a beautiful baby. The baby and parents are in my prayers forever. I feel like a part of the family,” said the mother of two teenagers aged 16 and 18, adding that the clinic gives courses that “prepare us mentally for the fact it’s not our baby“.

The proposed ban has come as a shock and disappointment to the surrogacy industry as well as prospective couples who had been considering the option. But would the industry still sustain itself despite becoming illegal?

“Our apprehension and fear is that the whole business will go underground,” said Manasi Mishra, who heads the research division at the New Delhi-based Center for Social Research, an organization that has published studies on surrogacy in India. “The bargaining capacity of the surrogate mother will further go down.”

The Indian Government has proposed to seek the above in an attempt to curb “exploitation” of women. With due respect to their intentions, I fail to understand, how is it an exploitation when an adult woman legally consents to carry a child for a couple in return for a monetary compensation?

Yes, I understand that there are legal, ethical, and emotional implications. And there have been instances of abandonment of the baby, health risks for the surrogate mother, citizenship issues of the child and underpayment of compensation amongst others.

But is proposing a ban the solution?

Should the government not try to regulate the industry instead and address proper implementation of surrogacy laws? The fact that it is only the foreign couples who would be denied surrogacy is even more discriminatory and confusing. If the purpose is to protect a woman from exploitation, what difference does it make to her whether the womb is being rented by an Indian or foreigner?

Speaking of exploitation, how many women in the country, poor or rich alike are married with the sole purpose of bearing a child? Everybody tells a man to find a “nice girl”, and settle down to start a family. At times, the same wife goes through multiple childbirths in an attempt to bear a male child, her consent being nobody’s concern.

In that process, she may have undergone multiple abortions as well, much to the destruction of her physical and mental health. And guess what, these women get paid nothing for the use of their womb! Isn’t that exploitation of a woman? However, nobody raised an objection because it is all under the ‘acceptable social realms of holy matrimony’.

But, when a woman is making a choice, knowing what she is getting into by carrying the child of another couple and getting compensated for it financially, she is getting exploited? The irony has made me speechless!

Originally published at on October 29, 2015.

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