India has banned commercial surrogacy. This decision was taken at a high level during a Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. As a result it will stop single women from acting as surrogate mothers to crack down on what the government calls exploitation of the poor.
As a result of this decision, a legislation will be introduced in the Winter Session of Parliament and commercial surrogacy for foreigners, expatriate Indians, single parents, live-in couples and homosexual couples will be banned.
Commercial surrogacy is banned in most developed countries, including Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Japan.
India’s federal cabinet gave its approval for introduction of the “Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016”, regulating surrogacy and safeguarding the rights of surrogate mothers.
The Bill will regulate surrogacy in India by establishing National Surrogacy Board at the central level and State Surrogacy Boards and Appropriate Authorities in the State and Union Territories level. The legislation will ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy and allow ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples.
While commercial surrogacy will be prohibited including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes, ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples will be allowed on fulfillment of certain conditions and for specific purposes. As such, it will control the unethical practices in surrogacy, prevent commercialization of surrogacy and will prohibit potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.
Based on the UK surrogacy laws, Indian bill has allowed close relatives to be surrogate mothers instead of blood relatives as in the case of Britain.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said : “There will be a complete ban on commercial surrogacy. Childless couples, who are medically unfit to have children, can take help from a close relative, which is called altruistic surrogacy.”
At least 10 years of jail
The new law will also bring the 2000-odd surrogacy clinics in the country under its purview. Those indulging in illegal surrogacy could face fine up to Rs 10 lakhs (1 million INR) and at least ten year jail term. The bill also invites legal action which includes fine and imprisonment of the prospective parents in case they refuse to accept a baby with health problems or deformity.
According to the proposed law, only Indian couples who have been married for at least five years can have children through surrogacy.
The draft has already been cleared by a Group of Ministers (GoM) headed by Swaraj. The GoM was constituted at the behest of the Prime minister’s office. Health minister J P Nadda, commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman and food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Law Minister Ravi Shankar were among those taking part in the GoM.
Ms Swaraj also came heavily on what she called the “celebrity culture” of getting children through surrogacy.
“Today, getting a child through surrogacy has become a fashion, a hobby not a necessity. The bill won’t allow this,” said Swaraj.
Indian government’s move means that no one can emulate Bollywood stars such as Shah Rukh Khan
and Aamir Khan – who had surrogate babies after two children – or even Tusshar Kapoor, who became a single father.
Without taking names, Ms Swaraj commented that “celebrities are having surrogate babies, in spite of having two children, they had a third, just because the wife couldn’t take the pain, and got someone else to bear their child.”
No surrogate babies for foreigners in India
Ms Swaraj said it had been decided that foreigners would not be allowed to have surrogate babies from India, not even overseas Indians. “We have had cases of girls being abandoned, a twin being left behind and disabled babies being rejected,” the minister explained.