Surrogacy business or the ‘womb for rent’ which has been only a recent phenomenon, is rapidly growing in India.
The human body is an incredible machine. But at times, women fail to conceive due to a number of reasons as a result of which commercial surrogacy replaces the earlier IVF treatments and even adoption to provide the couple with children. Surrogacy is a contract in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another couple. The number of clinics offering surrogacy have increased manifold in India and mostly cater to the needs of foreign couples. Recently, Indian couples wanting children through the procedure have also increased. Surrogacy is legal in India while it is still illegal in most of the countries. The country therefore, has become a favourite destination of childless couples not only because the laws are much lenient, but also due to the healthier lifestyles of to-be mothers and lower costs compared to the West. Unlike in the Western countries, women are less exposed to a lifestyle with drugs, alcohol and smoking which has a positive impact on the health of the baby as well as the mother. The childless couples desperate to have children are lured into enter the surrogate market which prove beneficial to both the parties.
This rapidly growing reproductive tourism is a shame for it violates the moral and ethical codes and being a delicate issue has a number of possible drawbacks. These issues are never addressed by the government and don’t have any carefully framed laws let alone protecting the rights of the surrogate mothers. The ruthless business exploits poor women from the rural families who enter the ‘market’ misled by the agents. An alarmingly high maternal death rate is yet another factor in most of the cases. The issues about women’s health, their rights along with the paternity issues complicate the matter.
The government besides legalizing surrogacy has also formulated new laws further slackening the existing rules. Laws related to abortion have also been amended allowing pregnancy termination till 24 weeks despite the medical practitioners citing the potential risks involved if the pregnancy is terminated after 20 weeks. Persons with little experience and knowledge in surgery are gaining licenses to carry out the complex medical procedures. Surrogacy is often considered a ‘cool’ and a ‘convenient’ option nowadays because it involves no real pain of labour. Preference for male child still exists among the people of the country as well as among foreigners. Female genocide is still on a hike and the government should seriously reconsider the existing laws regarding commercial surrogacy. Adoption of child being a complicated and a lengthy procedure, also to an extent leads to opting for a surrogate child. It is ironical when there are around 12 million children as orphans in the country. The amendements would only further weaken and worsen the matter and a joint effort by the government as well as the people is needed for tackling the matter.