India proposes to ban commercial surrogacy

Proposed bill to prohibit homosexuals, unmarried couples and foreigners from hiring Indian women to have a baby.

    According to the government, only 2,000 infertile couples use commercial surrogates each year [AP]
    According to the government, only 2,000 infertile couples use commercial surrogates each year [AP]

    India's government has unveiled a draft law to ban commercial surrogacy, a move that would block homosexuals, single parents, live-in partners and foreign couples from hiring Indian women to have a baby.

    Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, said on Wednesday the new law would prohibit prospective gay parents as homosexuality went against the country's values.

    While we need regulations to ensure that no women are forced into surrogacy, an outright ban isn't logical

    Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Fertility and IVF consultant, Nurture Clinic

    "We do not recognise live-in and homosexual relationships ... this is against our ethos," the Indian Express newspaper quoted Swaraj, a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, as saying.

    WATCH: The baby makers

    In 2013, India's Supreme Court reversed a 2009 high court decision to decriminalise homosexuality. According to Article 377 of the Indian penal code, homosexuality is a crime, which can attract punishment of up to 10 years in prison.

    Swaraj also said that foreigners, including non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin were barred from opting for surrogacy as "divorces are very common in foreign countries".

    Only infertile couples who have been married for at least five years could seek a surrogate, who must be a close relative.

    "There will be a complete ban on commercial surrogacy," Swaraj said.

    "Childless couples who are medically unfit to have children can take help from a close relative, in what is an altruistic surrogacy."

    She said the ban would be introduced 10 months after the bill, which will now go to parliament for approval, to allow pregnant women already in arrangements with couples time to give birth.

    Some 2,000 infertile couples hire the wombs of Indian women to carry their embryos through to birth every year, according to the government.

    READ MORE: Trying to tame the Wild West of surrogacy in India

    Divided opinions surfaced on Indian social media, with tweets criticising as well as backing the proposed bill.

    Swaraj was also critical of couples, who already have a son and a daughter of their own, for opting for surrogacy. She blamed "celebrity culture", in a jibe at Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan, who have both had children through the procedure.

    "We have several examples of big celebrities who have their own children, two children - a boy and a girl - still they have gone for a surrogate child," the minister said.

    The commercial surrogacy industry criticised the Indian government's move as over the top, saying couples desperate to have children would be left with few options.

    "While we need regulations to ensure that no women are forced into surrogacy, an outright ban isn't logical," Archana Dhawan Bajaj, fertility and IVF consultant at New Delhi-based Nurture Clinic, told the AFP news agency.

    Surrogacy mothers last year held protests against the government's plans, saying they would be denied an income, usually about $5,000 per pregnancy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News and agencies


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