No more surrogate option for same sex couples in India

India is seeing a growing number of gay couples from foreign countries hiring surrogates to bear children But according to a new bill gay and lesbian couples can't have children born with the help of an Indian surrogate mother.

A recent news piece that caught everyone’s eye is that of an Israeli homosexual couple who got a surrogate child from India, but now there’s a ban on surrogacy in India.

According to the draft `Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2010' prepared by a 12-member committee, gay and lesbian couples, Indian or foreign, can't have children born with the help of an Indian surrogate mother.

Doctor Gautam Allahabadia from Mumbai, who made the Israeli couple’s dream of having a child come true, confirmed that almost 16 homosexual couples of different nationalities (such as Swedish, French etc.) have approached him for the surrogacy. Reasons for choosing India as a destination are also quite obvious - less paper work and also, cost of whole treatment is much lesser than other countries.

The cost differences are clear-cut whilst in the US, surrogate mothers are typically paid $15,000, and agencies claim another $30,000. In India, the entire costs are much lower than that.
According to Ministry officials India was seeing a growing number of male couples from foreign countries hiring surrogates to bear children. This is mainly because assisted reproductive technology (ART) is not regulated here at present.

”However, once this bill is endorsed by the law ministry and becomes an Act, such couples will not be allowed to have surrogate children in India,” said member secretary of the committee Dr R S Sharma.

”But though homosexuality has been decriminalized in India, it has not been made legal. Till gay and lesbian couples get legal status in India, they can't avail surrogacy,” adds Dr. Sharma.

“There has to be some regulation on surrogacy but it’s unfair to completely say no. There has to be a constant check on these foreign nationals who go back with children from Bangalore,” Said Arvind Narrain a human rights activist and lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore.

The draft bill also says that foreigners or NRIs coming to India to rent a womb will have to submit two documents -- one confirming that their country of residence recognizes surrogacy as legal and second that it will give citizenship to the child born through the agreement from an Indian mother.

So what makes India an attractive destination for surrogacy? Experts cite two reasons. In the US, surrogacy costs up to $120,000 while in India, couples pay only a fourth or so of that amount. Having a child could cost anything between Rs 10 lakh and Rs 25 lakh here. The second reason is lack of regulation of the ART sector making India an easy place to have a surrogate baby.

The Law Commission, however, strongly pitched for legalizing surrogacy in India last year and recommended several steps to protect the interests of the surrogate mother and also the baby.  

But this fact alone can’t take away all the worries as there are some major grey areas that need to be paid attention to. The remuneration paid to the surrogates in India is 3-4 times lower than what is given to women in US. So is there a need for stricter laws to safeguard these women’s interest by setting some wage standards? If she gets ill as a result of the pregnancy who will pay the medical costs? The questions do not end here; it’s like a Pandora’s Box waiting to be opened.
Tags: surrogate mother, nri, assisted reproductive technology, assisted reproductive technology regulation

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