Surrogacy in India

[op-ed snap] Surrogacy Bill, then & now

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016

Mains level: Various laws for the protection of women from exploitation


Context

Surrogacy bill passed

  1. Lok Sabha has passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016
  2. Cleared by the Cabinet in 2016, the Bill was subsequently referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee (Health & Family Welfare) before its passage

What does the Bill aim to do?

  1. Drafted keeping in mind the “Indian ethos” the Bill allows only altruistic surrogacy (by relatives) for married couples
  2. It seeks to put an end to commercial surrogacy — payment to a surrogate mother is punishable by up to five years imprisonment — and also has safeguards built in against sex selection of the baby
  3. The Bill proposes to allow altruistic, ethical surrogacy to intending infertile Indian married couples between the ages of 23-50 (female) and 26-55 (male)
  4. It limits the option to only legally married childless couples who have been trying for a child for at least five years
  5. The commissioning couple cannot have a surviving child either biological or adopted, except when they have a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from a life-threatening disorder with no permanent cure

Need of the bill

  1. There have been several reports about the exploitation of surrogate mothers, women who are kept confined in “hostels” during pregnancy and not allowed to meet their families, women who do it repeatedly for a paltry amount thus putting their own bodies at risk. The Bill seeks to put an end to that
  2.  Ballpark estimations by the Indian Council of Medical Research are around 2,000-odd babies per year through commercial surrogacy — when a woman is paid a pre-fixed sum for renting her womb
  3. CII figures say surrogacy is a $2.3 billion industry fed by lack of regulation and poverty
  4. The 228th report of the Law Commission had recommended prohibition of commercial surrogacy
  5. The Bill now requires all surrogacy clinics to be registered
  6. Clinics can charge for these services but the surrogate mother cannot be paid
  7. The national and state surrogacy boards will be the regulating authorities

Differences in the two versions of the bill

  1. There are changes, including a reduction of punishment
  2. The earlier version provided for a minimum jail term of 10 years for some offences; the present one sets a maximum of 10 years
  3. The present Bill forbids the surrogate mother to use her own gametes (eggs), gives her the option to withdraw before the embryo is implanted, and puts a condition for obtaining a “certificate of essentiality” that the intending couple needs —they must provide 16-month insurance coverage for the surrogate mother including postpartum complications

Standing committee recommendations

  1. Pointing out that the Supreme Court has recognised live-in relationships, the Standing Committee had recommended that the government “broadbase the eligibility criteria in this regard and widen the ambit of persons who can avail surrogacy services by including live-in couples, divorced women/ widows”
  2. It had countered the “altruistic surrogacy for married couples” argument and recommended that compensation be the norm and the word altruistic should be replaced with compensated
  3. Altruistic surrogacy, it observed, is tantamount to exploitation
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