New Delhi: Women rights activists said on Wednesday that surrogacy regulation bill approved by the Union cabinet was a step in the right direction but surrogacy was a complex issue and implementing the proposed law will be challenging.
“Renting a womb has become a commercial exercise and not the way it should be. There is certainly a need for regulation,” said All India Democratic Women’s Association President Subhashini Ali.
“In many countries, there is a counselling of people who want surrogacy, saying that the adoption option should also be considered. They are told all the many health hazards also. The person who is a surrogate, her rights have to be protected,” she Ali added.
According to Sarojini N.B. from the organisation Sama, who has been closely involved with the issue, implementation of the bill is challenging.
“The implementation of law is challenging. The ban (on commercial surrogacy) might push it underground,” she said.
Sarojini feels that altruistic surrogacy with relatives can cause further exploitation of women in a patriarchal set-up.
“Only ‘altruistic surrogacy’ with close relatives, i.e. within the ‘family’ is going to be allowed. There is enough evidence that shows the exploitative nature of the ‘family’ as an institution where women may be subjected to various kinds of patriarchal pressures, including coercion to act as surrogates. We need to look into it carefully,” she said.
The director of the Joint Women’s Programme India and Vice President of the YWCA of India, Jyotsna Chatterjee said: “It’s good that commercial surrogacy has been banned. One of the major things is that it was almost becoming a malice like prostitution.”
Raising issues concerning identity, she said, “If an Austrian man from Europe comes, and goes for a surrogate child in Mumbai, what is the nationality of the child? Will he/she be Indian or Austrian?”
“Though surrogacy has been very helpful for women who have not been able to have their own children, like everything else it has become a fashion,” Chatterjee said.
“Take that actor — one actor who is not married, goes for surrogacy through a woman and says that it’s my child. What about the woman who might, at some time, claim that this is my child? He could give her money. It’s almost like a business exchange. A child is used as a product.”
Referring to the case where an Australian couple abandoned one of their twins in Delhi, Chatterjee showed her concern from the perspective of the child.
“What identity does the child have? The father will take it away. The woman who has produced the child also has rights as she has produced the child. She should be the person who should give nationality to the child,” she said.
According to the social activist Reena Banerjee: “A lot of poor women are exploited because of surrogacy. Huge money goes to doctors and the medical institutions, hired surrogate mothers are just exploited.”
“Surrogacy should only for those women who can’t conceive but it has become a fashion as those women, who don’t want to take the pain of pregnancy, take its advantage.”
“Implementation will be very difficult. Strong monitoring on part of the government is required,” Banerjee said.