Is the Surrogacy Bill 2019 unfair to women by limiting their options?

The Print | 21 Nov 2019

The Rajya Sabha Wednesday deferred the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 after several members wanted modifications. The Bill seeks to ban commercial surrogacy and allow ‘altruistic’ surrogacy, limiting it only to a ‘close relative’ to be a surrogate. For a couple to opt for surrogacy, they have to be Indian citizens, married for five years and prove they are infertile. The Print asks: Is the Surrogacy Bill 2019 unfair to women by limiting their options?

“Allowing only close relatives to practice surrogacy is counter-productive to aim of ending womens’ exploitation,” – Sarojini N., Sama

Upholding the rights of surrogates through a legislation is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill claims to fulfil this by permitting only “altruistic” surrogacy, assuming that surrogates are not paid and that allowing only a close relative to be a surrogate prevents the exploitation of surrogates. Permitting only close relatives of the couple to become surrogate mothers is counter-productive to the aim of ending exploitation of vulnerable women. Knowing the reality of patriarchal families in India, the stigma of infertility, the pressure of producing children and maintaining lineage, and the low bargaining power of women, it can be expected that young mothers will be coerced into becoming surrogates for their socially and economically better-off relatives.

Moreover, much of what has been written in the proposed legislation is limited to the binary of ‘pro’ or ‘against’ commercial surrogacy. The core issue of ensuring the rights of surrogates has been reduced to a polarised debate on the merits or demerits of altruistic versus commercial surrogacy arrangements.

Although the need for regulating the surrogacy industry is extremely valid and necessary, the bill’s provisions, unfortunately, fall short of addressing the core concern.

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