On December 1, 2011 Aamir Khan and his wife, Kiran Rao welcomed their first-born son—but with a classy difference. The couple announced that their son was born through surrogacy using the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) technique, an openness that was (and is so rare) in stiff necked Indian society. Ironically, when the world was banning commercial surrogacy, India was embracing it, thanks to our ambiguous law concerning surrogacy. Over the years, India has emerged as the biggest hub of surrogacy tourism making it a market of worth 450 million dollars, as estimated by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
But everything in this world has a price. Ever since the commercial surrogacy industry kicked off in the late 1970’s; it has been awash with scandals, exploitation and abuse, primarily of the impoverished. From the infamous ‘Baby M’ case – in which the mother changed her mind and was forced, in tears, to hand over her baby to the Japanese billionaire, who ordered 16 children from different Thai clinic; there has been a complete commodification of human life : click, choose race, skin and even eye colour, pay and have your child delivered.
In the absence of regulations regarding surrogacy, the Union Cabinet recently approved the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016; banning commercial but not ‘altruistic’ surrogacy. While lashing out at the celebrities for converting surrogacy from a need to a convenience, Sushma Swaraj argued that the bill is aimed to stop exploitation of the marginal and the poor women of the society and in turn hailed ‘commercial surrogacy’ against the ethos of India.
This bill actually raises more question than it answers. The proposed law only allows married couples, that too after five years of marriage; to opt for altruistic surrogacy. Isn’t taking the help of close relatives against our ethos? It may lead to more exploitation of females within a family. What if the entire family pressurises the elder sister to undergo surrogacy for younger sister? Isn’t this exploitation? Nothing is more deleterious than the exploitation of women within the confined walls of home.
People criticising this bill for pushing this era back into the times of ‘Stone Age’ must explain their crave for biological child instead of an adopted child? Isn’t the pine for biological child repressively obsolete and archaic? The embargo on commercial surrogacy may lead to a more mettlesome approach towards adoption; considering the fact that there are 20 million orphan children in our country but this again is a doubly edged sword. No sooner the appetency of adoption increases, it will turn into a humongous market; pushing for more scandals, rackets and infant trafficking.
This bill discriminates homosexuals, live-in relationship couples, bisexual transgender and single parents’ by debarring them, the right of ‘altruistic’ surrogacy. Though LGBT marriage isn’t recognized in the elms of law, the constitution surely recognises single parenting. Isn’t this bizarre and absurd, that the state is trying to decide the mode of procreation and parenthood for single parents? By eliminating NRI’s and foreigners to undergo surrogacy in India; isn’t this bill giving a huge setback to the Prime Minister’s much hyped ‘Make In India’ endeavor?
The fact that impoverishment is the preeminent reason pushing women to undergo surrogacy can never be denied. If two matured individual agrees on something by mutual consent, how can the state make a law to influence this? In the show ‘We the People’ on NDTV 24×7, a surrogate mother from Odisha said that she is blissful and contented to give someone the delight of a biological child. She is happy earning three lakhs in a period of 8-9 months than becoming a maid to earn a meager amount. She further added that many of the surrogate mothers invested their money to open a boutique or something else and hence enhanced their standard of living. Though, it again raises, yet another question of human right violation, what if (either willingly or due to tremendous family pressure) a woman is made a ‘child bearing machine’!
This proposed law raises so many rational questions before us. The very moment, the narrative of the society moves away from religion, nationalism and fan following we are left naked to the issues that affect us explicitly and dreadfully.
Hope, this bill creates more talking because taking always does more talking. Silence only perpetuates more silence.