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Posted at: Dec 21, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: Dec 21, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Womb on hire

Bill defines what surrogacy must really be all about
Womb on hire

IN an attempt to regulate surrogacy, the Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill to bring in intelligible laws to insulate it against exploitation. The service has been micro-contained to benefit only, and only, infertile Indian and NRI couples who have been married for five years and have failed to conceive even after medical intervention. The larger circle of foreigners, Persons of Indian Origin, Overseas Citizens of India, single, divorced persons, widows and members of the LGBT community has been firmly kept away. Introduced by the Health Minister, the Bill ticks all the boxes, clarifying who is eligible for the service, and who can be a ‘one-time’ surrogate: a married Indian woman, aged 25 to 35, with a child of her own, and only a ‘close relative’ (to be defined by National Surrogacy Board once it is law).

For long, a need was felt to monitor surrogacy, whirling uncomfortably out of hand, mainly due to obscure laws, the ease of a made-to-order baby and the boggling figures that established it as an industry worth $2 billion. There have been cases of abandonment of babies, but what made it worse was the largely altruistic sentiment giving in to a fad, propagated by the Aamir Khans and Karan Johars and other affluent couples who ‘engineered’ a no-fuss way of having a baby: buy one. The legislation has to it a soft side, vital in such-like matters as surrogacy and adoption, allowing the surrogate child the same rights as a biological child and ensuring that a baby is not abandoned. A couple with a mentally challenged child can go for surrogacy. The registration of surrogacy clinics will be binding too.

The extreme downside to surrogacy was the commercial angle that overrode the moral considerations. Monetary allurement has now been pulled out of the equation. Heading the GoM drafting the Bill in 2016, Sushma Swaraj had said: ‘Surrogacy can’t be a fashion or a hobby for actors who don’t want their wives to undergo labour or who already have children. It must have a purpose.’ The presumptuous belief that money can buy love may be in currency still, but surely, it can’t now buy a baby. 

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