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Why ban the Womb for Rent

Intending parents resort to Surrogacy when pregnancy becomes medically impossible. Through this process of Surrogacy, such parents are gifted with a second chance of experiencing parenthood, as wished for. Though being a controversial phenomenon, subjected to Moral, Social and most importantly, Legal issues, Surrogacy has grown over the years, in many parts of the world. While most countries, are open to the idea and practice of Surrogacy, a few countries strictly prohibit the same, taking into consideration and evaluating the dangers of such pregnancies on the reproductive health of the surrogate mother, as also the future of the new born child.

Surrogacy in India, is a practice or business, whichever way one would like to view it, that is worth 2 Billion U.S.D., annually and has grown exponentially over the years, due to the affordable as well as low Costs associated with the entire process of Surrogacy, as compared to the rest of the world. This has contributed to the advancement in Commercial Surrogacy, amongst couples across the world, especially the Western Countries, seeking Surrogate mothers in India, to reproduce on their behalf. Commercial Surrogacy involves intending parents paying a gestational carrier (a Surrogate mother) to carry their child in her womb until the maturity of the pregnancy. The act of payment, in exchange for a child or sometimes twins, puts a tag to the practice of Commercial Surrogacy and most often, it is referred to as ‘Baby Trade’. The lack of awareness of the same, in Indian society has contributed to a negative view, not forgetting the Moral and Culture shaming, Commercial Surrogacy has received over the years.

Commercial Surrogacy was banned for gay couples in the year 2012, following which, the government imposed a ban in 2017, for all citizens in the country. Since then, various fertility clinics and surrogate mothers resort to legal loopholes, that defeats the very purpose of such a ban. Just as the demand for Surrogacy is increasing, the ban imposed on the same would ensure its practice continues, in a clandestine manner. In this scenario, couples in desperation, would definitely find a way of Surrogacy, even if the same meant resorting to ‘Baby Trade’ across borders.

In the Indian context, many needy women have benefited financially from Commercial Surrogacy. These women have been able to attain financial independence through the same, as it provides them with an opportunity to carry a human life for the period of 9 months, in exchange for gratitude in the form of much needed monetary compensation. However, the reality is that many of these women are illiterate and can be easily manipulated as well as exploited, which is a cause of concern, to activists and feminists, alike.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 was introduced with the primary aim of imposing a ban on Commercial Surrogacy. It provided an alternative for couples who were married for atleast 5 years to resort to Altruistic Surrogacy, wherein the chosen surrogate mother had to be a close relative of the couple and no monetary compensation would be awarded, in exchange, for the Surrogacy. The effect of the ban by the Government of India has severely impacted women working in the reproductive industry, keeping in mind, that for some of these women, it is their only means of survival. On one hand, as debates proceed on the exploitation of the poor, by the rich, on the other hand, there is an emerging concern, wherein the baby trade is considered an equivalent to the sex trade and the role of a surrogate mother, compared to one of a sex worker. Undoubtedly, possible violation of Human Rights, is a primary and Universal concern.

The exploitation and manipulation of Surrogate mothers could be resolved through stricter laws and various implementations on a national level as well as in International forum. Human Rights violation that these women are subjected to, should be addressed with suitable laws enacted by the various Governments. This crucial role of Governments, dealing with such sensitive issues, while seeking to protect such women, should not pass any legislation that completely deprive these women their sustenance, or sometimes, supporting a family of their own. In addition to the role played by the government, transparency by intermediaries as well as agencies facilitating Surrogacies are vital. This is to ensure a safeguard of rights of the Surrogate mothers as well as the intending parents. Transparency should be effective enough, to eliminate barriers in language and most importantly, the fair remuneration to be paid to these Surrogate mothers.

Surrogacy is indeed mutually beneficial for intending parents as well as surrogate mothers, who are in desperate need of monetary aid. It cannot be considered unethical either, as long as there is no exploitation or manipulation, in the system. Alternately, Commercial Surrogacy could be viewed as a method of women empowerment. In conclusion, laws, their enforcement, and safeguards therein provided, can go a long way to determine the fate of these women in consideration, as well as intending parents, who solely rely on Commercial Surrogacy in India, for HOPE.

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