Surrogacy is a contract for providing conception, pregnancy, abandonment and delivery of a child by a woman with one or more intended parents in exchange for money. The recent plea for the ban on commercial surrogacy in India, with the passing of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 by Parliament, has raised conflicting questions of ethics and human rights. The most important question raised is whether the ban being a right or a wrong decision.
The Bill allows only “altruistic surrogacy” for infertile couples married for five years or more. It restrains homosexuals, live-in partners, single parents, NRIs, overseas citizens or foreigners from opting for surrogate children.The surrogacy can be carried out by the couple’s close relative who should be a married woman having at least one child. This lessens the chances of finding a surrogate mother as very few women opt to go for pregnancy a second time.
Violation of rules has a jail sentence of 10 years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh which is absurd. The stringent rules make the Bill very regressive as surrogacy is limited to straight married couples. The bias against homosexuals is clearly evident from the Bill. Homosexuality stands illegal in India despite progressive open-minded views about it, but the restriction on single parents and live-in partners narrows down the entire purpose of allowing altruistic surrogacy when one looks at it from a broader perspective.
Surrogacy is a very subjective issue. The question of a woman’s rights over her own body are held at stake. Why should the government make a decision for the women in the country? In India, a woman is either given the respect of a Goddess or looked down upon as a whore. Can’t a woman just be left alone to live her life, neither be worshipped nor looked down upon? A woman should have the right to take her own decisions, whether good or bad. Thus, surrogacy is one’s personal choice which the government should not interfere with.
At the same time, there is a clash of views when we look at surrogacy from the point of International Law. Surrogacy tramples the basic rights of the child to be born out of it. It also limits the woman from exercising full freedom. As the surrogate mother stands answerable to the couple taking the responsibility of the new born, she remains under complete monitoring or surveillance. A legal contract has to be fulfilled by carrying out the surrogacy.
Another reason why surrogacy becomes unethical and ugly is because women, poorest are used for their reproductive capacity by rich intending parents. This reflects the depressing state of the human ethical code. Women from poor backgrounds are left with no option but to practise the action. India is stuck in a vicious circle of poverty and illiteracy. These women have no other means of earning a bulk amount of money. Many are forced into it by their families. Some agree to it in order to protect themselves from getting beaten up and also to get a healthy meal as surrogate mothers are looked after by the hiring parents and nobody dares to hurt the ‘goose giving them gold’. Thus, surrogacy does become a form of social crime violating human rights.
Lastly, basic child rights are violated as surrogacy can lead to a child having as many as six parents. The surrogate mother and her husband, the intending parents and the sperm and egg donors if they are not the intending parents in case of infertility etc. The child remains unaware of the reality which is in contrast to the child’s right to know and live with his or her parents according to Article 7, Convention on the Rights of the child. Thus, surrogacy clearly being a subjective issue should be left to the individuals concerned. There might be some people who do need surrogacy despite being single. They might prove to be more efficient than a straight married couple. Thus, India needs to liberate itself from the stereotypical thought process it follows and stop looking at situations myopically.