Amidst all the chaos of demonetisation, a bill to ban commercial surrogacy was introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 was presented by Health Minister J P Nadda.
The bill is supposed to focus on protecting women from exploitation and ensuring the rights of the child born through surrogacy. If approved, commercial surrogacy will face a complete ban in India.
Under special circumstances, only infertile couples with medical letters will be allowed to approach surrogate mothers. Even those that meet these criteria will be subject to further restrictions. The couple has to be Indian, the woman must be aged between 23 to 50 and the man’s age must be between 26 and 55. There is also a clause stating that the couple has to have been married for at least 5 years.
In order to eliminate the middlemen, the surrogate mother can only be a close relative, such as a sister or a sister-in-law. She must also have previously had a healthy child. A woman can be a surrogate only once in her life.
External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said in August, “The bill was required as India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples and incidents (were) reported on unethical practices.”
Foreigners, NRIs and Person of Indian Origin card holders will not be allowed to hire a surrogate mother. Homosexuals, single-parents and live-in couples are also barred.
“The bill allows surrogacy only for necessity, not for luxury or fashion as we have seen repeatedly,” said Mrs.Swaraj.
Violation of this bill will lead to 10 years in jail. Clinics that are assisting the couples in surrogacy have to maintain a record for 25 years after the child is born.
Incidents cited whilst defending the bill include the Australian couple that rejected one of the twin babies their surrogate birthed because they already had a child of the same sex; and a Japanese couple that divorced before their surrogate’s baby was due, consequently having both parties refuse to take the baby in.