In a bold yet potentially controversial step against infamous rent-a-womb culture in India, the Indian government has cleared a legislative framework which will stop foreigners, single parents, live-in partners and gay or lesbian couples from hiring women as surrogate mothers for their children.
Non-resident Indians also figure in the barred list. Moreover, the new legislation will guarantee equal rights to a child born of surrogacy as that of a biological child. Any person who abandons a surrogate child will risk a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and fine of USD 14,890 or both. The framework will become law once it is endorsed by the parliament.
Sushma Swaraj, India’s Minister for External Affairs said, “Only Indian citizen living in India is getting rights to have surrogate child. Foreign nationals and even non-resident Indian holding OCI/PIO card will not get right to have a surrogate child in India.”
Elaborating on the provisions of the new legislation, Swaraj stated that unmarried, single parent, live-in couples and homosexual couples will not be allowed to use surrogacy services. Only infertile couples, married for more than five years, will be given the option of surrogacy, but only on the basis of medical papers that certify their infertility.
According to the Indian government, “India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries and there have been reported incidents concerning unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes.”
India has more than 2000 commercial surrogacy clinics which will have to be now registered under the coming National Surrogacy Board.
The usual fee for surrogacy is around $12,000 to $20,000 in India which is around 1/6th of that in developed countries like the USA. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) estimates the business to be worth 450 million dollars annually, while private estimates suggest that this service is worth approximately 2.3 billion dollars in India.