Commercial surrogacy outlawed

Draft bill bans ‘womb rentals’ for money

New Delhi: Renting a womb will soon be a crime in India with the Cabinet today approving a law banning commercial surrogacy and permitting only altruistic surrogacy in the interest of infertile couples. Altruistic surrogacy means engaging a close relative as a surrogate in a legal contract with the intending parents with no money involved.

The draft surrogacy Bill, to be passed in the winter session of Parliament, allows surrogacy services only for married Indian couples wedded for five years with foreigners, NRIs, persons of Indian origin (PIO) holding overseas Indian citizenship cards, single parents, unmarried persons and those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community kept out.

Even married Indian couples with a previous biological or adopted child won’t be allowed to engage a surrogate. Inspired by UK’s surrogacy legislation, the Indian version defines a surrogate as a “close female relative” of the intending couple, specifying that a surrogate can only be a married woman with at least one child of her own.

The Bill says married Indian couples will be able to engage a surrogate only after they have exhausted all medical options of child-bearing. “They will have to produce a certificate saying either is medically unfit to bear a child,“ said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. chairperson of the Group of Ministers (GoM) that deliberated on the subject. She called the law “landmark”, saying it would curb organ trade.

“Kidney and liver trade is a major concern, but renting wombs is the new dimension of this trade. We have seen cases where intending couples have abandoned disabled children, girls born out of surrogacy contracts and one of the children in case of twins. This will end. The Cabinet has accepted the GoM’s recommendation of a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy in India,” she said.

She denied that barring single parents and sexual minorities from engaging surrogates was a regressive step. “The Bill is in line with the Indian ethos. Our law doesn’t recognise gays and live-in partners. Also, a surrogate can’t be engaged for hobby or pleasure as some celebrities have been doing only because they don’t want their wives to undergo labour pangs. Those with biological or adopted children can’t engage surrogates,” Swaraj said.

The Bill says children born from surrogacy contracts will have all rights (including inheritance) which a biological child has. “Abandoning a child will be a crime punishable with a Rs 10-lakh fine and jail up to 10 years,” she said.

The Bill mandates registration of surrogacy clinics.

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