Weekly Current Affairs

Surrogacy bill gets the Cabinet nod [Governance]

  • The Union Cabinet has cleared the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, banning commercial surrogacy in India.
  • The Bill also bars foreigners, homosexual couples, people in live-in relationships and single individuals, making only childless, straight Indian couple married for a minimum of five years eligible for surrogacy.
  • Eligible couples will have to turn to close relatives, not necessarily related by blood for altruistic surrogacy — where no money exchanges hands between the commissioning couple and the surrogate mother.
  • Bill makes homosexuals ineligible for surrogacy. Each country has to make laws that are aligned with our values, as per a legal framework. Homosexual couples are not recognised by law in India.
  • The Bill also prohibits couples who already have biological or adopted children from commissioning babies through surrogacy.
  • The surrogacy debate started in India in 2008, when two-week-old Baby Manji Yamada was left stateless after the commissioning parents in Japan divorced during the pregnancy and the commissioning mother refused to accept the baby.
  • While the court granted custody to the baby’s grandmother after a long legal battle, the case led the Gujarat HC to state that there is “extreme urgency to push through legislation” which addresses such issues.
  • Subsequently, the 228th report of the Law Commission of India recommended prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing ethical altruistic surrogacy to the needy Indian citizens by enacting a suitable legislation.
  • The Bill will apply to the whole of India, except Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Rich people outsource pregnancies to poorer women because their wives cannot go through labour pain. Bill puts a complete stop to celebrities who are commissioning surrogate children like a hobby, despite having biological ones.
  • Further, the new Bill mandates that women acting as surrogates can do so only once. All Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) clinics will be registered.
  • In 2002, India became the first country to legalise commercial surrogacy. By 2012, India had become the ‘surrogacy capital’ of the world with surrogacy tourism valued at approximately $500 million annually.
  • Gynaecologists and infertility specialists also took offence to surrogacy being equated with indulgence as they said it is most often the last resort for people wanting a child.
  • Draft Bill bans renting womb for money and allows it only if woman is doing so for altruistic reasons, which surrogacy experts dubbed illogical and unreasonable.
  • Surrogacy cannot be seen as illegal and immoral. The draft Bill is both draconian and unreasonable. It is a violation of the reproductive right of the surrogate mother.
  • Draft Bill even banned egg donation that would only ensure that a sizeable number of people seeking IVF treatment would not be able to take it up now.
  • Key aspects of the Bill:
    • The draft surrogacy Bill aims at regulating commissioning of surrogacy in the country in a proper manner.
    • As per the 2009 Law Commission Report, the assisted reproduction treatment industry is Rs. 25,000 crore industry.
    • The Bill aims to prevent exploitation of women, especially those in rural and tribal areas.
    • The Bill promises to ensure parentage of children born out of surrogacy is “legal and transparent.”
    • The new Bill proposes complete ban on commercial surrogacy
    • As per the Bill, only legally-wedded Indian couples can have children through surrogacy, provided at least one of them have been proven to have fertilityrelated issues.
    • Foreigners, even Overseas Indians, are barred from commissioning surrogacy.
    • A woman will be allowed to become a surrogate mother only for altruistic purpose and under no circumstances money shall be paid to her, except for medical expenses.
    • Unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and homosexuals cannot opt for surrogacy as per the new bill.
    • Surrogacy regulation board will be set-up at Central and State-level.