What’s Wrong with the Surrogacy Bill

It’s great that surrogacy has been legalised in India. But if you think it will erase all traces of abuse and exploitation, you have another think coming.

While the introduction of draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, is a welcome step towards plugging the existing regulatory vacuum in the commissioning of surrogacy in India, the provisions spelt out under the draft bill reek of regulatory overreach and a flawed mechanism.

With the approval of the draft Surrogacy Bill last week, the Union Cabinet hopes to prevent the exploitation of women who, in exchange for a ‘fee’, act as surrogate mothers and rent their womb out. The need to regulate this $2-billion industry arose from incidents where the contracts were not honoured. In particular, it was the case of the Japanese doctor couple that commissioned a surrogacy in 2008, but was divorced by the time the baby was born, leaving the baby parentless and without citizenship. Another trigger for the government was the case of an Australian couple that, in 2012, abandoned one of the twin babies born out of their commissioned surrogacy because that baby was born with Down syndrome.

In essence, the Bill has banned commercial surrogacy and has limited it to heterosexual couples that have been legally married for five years or more, have no children, and have a close female relative whom they can convince to altruistically bear their child for nine months. There are many things that are arbitrary about this Bill. For instance, the five-year time period, the bar against homosexual or single parents, and the requirement that the surrogates be altruistic.

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