Surrogacy takes place when a woman gives birth to a child for another family. In the new turn of events in 2016, the Indian government has imposed a ban on commercial surrogacy. This ban will severely affect women who practiced surrogacy to earn extra money. Take a look at the major points under the Surrogacy Bill, 2016.
- The new bill tries to regulate surrogacy in India by permitting it only for couples who cannot have children through natural means, have a lack of other assisted reproductive technology options and can have a family relative as a surrogate. Altruistic surrogacy is an arrangement amongst people where the transfer of funds does not take place.
- NRI’s or any other foreign nationals are forbidden from conducting surrogacy in India. Only Indian heterosexual couples are permitted to opt for surrogacy
- There is an age limit set as well for families opting for surrogacy, i.e. 23- 50 for females and 26-55 in the case of males. And finally, the couple should be married for at least five years and should have tried others means of artificial reproduction as well before opting for surrogacy.
- The new bill does not allow homosexuals, single parent, and live-in couples to opt for surrogacy.
- As per the Bill, only medical expenses will be covered for the surrogate, no other payments can be made.
In these modern times when the notion of family is drastically changing imposing a ban on homosexuals, live-in couples and single parents seems archaic. It can be seen as an attempt to prescribe a particular kind of family. The structure of family has always been patriarchal- where the male member is the breadwinner and the female member is the caregiver. This notion of family is now changing with the rise of the LGBTQ community, live-in relationships and single parents. These new structures do not adhere to the traditional notion of family and hence the state does not consider them to be one. These new relationships are seen as unnatural by the state. By imposing a ban on surrogacy for LGBT community, live-in partners and single parents the state is trying to dictate its understanding of the family on the citizens. It is trying to control the sexuality, orientation and choice of the people by not giving them equal rights as that of the heterosexual couples.
Promoting this altruistic form over the commercial form is the proclamation that women are the reproductive laborers or gift-givers and require no compensation for the loss of livelihood and the emotional and bodily changes that they undergo during surrogacy. Historically, women are expected to be the caregivers in the family. They are expected to perform self-less reproductive labor. By promoting altruistic surrogacy, the state is promoting the stereotype of women performing reproductive activities as a form of their duties. The state is assuming that any female in the family would be willing to perform this deed. By doing so the government is elevating the notion of the selfless Indian women who would be willing to bear the nine months’ worth of labor for a member of the extended family.
The state is trying to control the body of women by imposing a ban on commercial surrogacy. According to the new regulation, a woman can act as a surrogate only once in her lifetime. This goes against the issue of consent. If a woman is willing to be a surrogate more than once in her life, why does the state need to interfere and say no? By doing so they are taking control of a woman’s body. The state is snatching away the right for a woman to take her own decisions by trying to control her body.
The state has neglected the fact that many women perform surrogacy to earn some money for their families. This ban will severely affect the section of women who were depending on surrogacy for earning money.
Instead of imposing a complete ban on commercial surrogacy, amendments should have been made to protect the rights of the surrogate mother and the child born out of surrogacy.
The regulation of this bill is an example of our state being homophobic, trying to enforce paternalistic traditional standards and trying to discriminate towards non- hetero-normative relationships. The bill exhibits a lack of understanding of women, their body, and choice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Manjulika Chellappan, our intern.