The nuances surrounding surrogacy have always been a controversial topic in India due to the ambiguous nature of the body governing these procedures.
Consequentially, with the passing of the Surrogacy Bill 2019, the Centre aims to streamline the process as they take over control by establishing National and State Surrogacy Boards.
As a whole, the legislation aims to ban commercial surrogacy and focus on taking an altruistic approach.
The amendment widens the scope of prospective surrogates by allowing any ‘willing’ woman to become one, without the former precondition of being a close relative of the couple. However, it will not include any additional remuneration, except the medical expenses incurred.
Other notable changes are regarding the persons allowed to seek these services. Any married Indian or Indian origin couples and Indian divorced or widowed women aged 35-45 can seek this procedure in the country.
The definition of infertility as given in the 2016 Bill has also been deleted. It had specified that couples unable to procreate despite unprotected intercourse for five years will be considered eligible. The period of five years seemed too long for a couple to wait for a child.
The insurance for volunteering mothers has also been increased from 16 to 36 months.
With all these changes, the government is aiming to nullify the influence of commercialism in surrogacy. There have been many cases of sale of embryos and gametes, abandonment of babies born out of such commitments, exploitation of surrogate mothers and even women volunteering to carry children despite major health concerns and danger to their lives just for money.
However, there have been questions raised vis-à-vis the practicality of such incentives. While the addition to authorised surrogates is definitely going to make it easier to find prospective women, people have expressed qualms about the lack of monetary compensation. It is fair to assume that not many would consider being a party to this process solely out of the goodness of their heart, or even good faith. To expect a woman to undergo such a burden for a stranger without any hopes for consideration is a very slippery slope.
The main objective of recompense to the surrogate was to persuade more people to engage in the service, by attaching a profitable angle for either party.
Another crucial criticism emerges from the LGBT+ community who argue that this Bill does not support the queer, single people, and live-in partners.
As addressed in the amendments, only married couples may be allowed to seek the option of surrogacy. As of February 2021, same-sex couples are yet to be granted the right to matrimony.
Many claim that while the ostensible purpose was to reduce exploitation of the women involved, the change in motivation will not empower them either. Instead, it may even become a burden for those who do plan to pose as surrogate mothers.
The Bill is yet to be passed by the Rajya Sabha, due to which people are calling for debates on its existing terms and conditions before it becomes implemented.
This post was written by Manya, IInd year