New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its nod to the Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2016, that seeks to prohibit “commercial surrogacy” and allow “ethical altruistic surrogacy” only to needy infertile married couples.
Terming commercial surrogacy as “kokh ka vyapar” (trade of womb), External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who headed the Group of Ministers (GoM) formed to look into the matter of surrogacy, said it was becoming a “fashion and a trend” to produce children through surrogacy by “those who do not want to put their wives in pain”.
“This Bill will curb this practice and would allow ethical surrogacy to needy infertile couples only, and we have put several checks and balances for the same,” Swaraj said.
Only a married Indian couple who fails to conceive after five years of marriage will be allowed to go for surrogacy, but even in that case, they will have to furnish medical certificate that they cannot conceive for some medical reasons, Swaraj said.
Importantly, a surrogate mother must be a close relation of the couple seeking a surrogate child.
“A surrogate mother must be a close relation of the couple seeking surrogacy,” Swaraj said.
An important aspect of the bill is that foreigners, NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) or OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) card holders won’t be allowed to avail surrogacy.
Also, the altruistic surrogacy will not be allowed to single parents, live-in partners and same-sex couples, the Minister said.
On being asked if this provision was discriminatory, Swaraj said that currently homosexuality is illegal in the country and hence, same-sex couples cannot be allowed to have children through surrogacy.
“We do not recognise homosexuality and live-in relationships in India… This does not go with our ethos,” she said.
Besides, couples having kids or having adopted a child cannot use surrogacy.
In recent years, India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries and there have been reported incidents concerning unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes.
According to estimates, currently more than 2,000 surrogacy clinics are operating across the country. As per the Bill, a surrogacy clinic must register itself with the government, else it would be deemed illegal.
“There is a provision of 10 years imprisonment and Rs 10 lakh fine on clinics which fail to abide by the rules,” she said.
Swaraj said the Bill will control unethical practices in surrogacy, prevent commercialization of surrogacy and prohibit potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and children born through surrogacy.
“A surrogate mother must be married and have at least one child. A woman would be allowed to become a surrogate mother only once. Similarly, a couple can avail surrogacy only once in their lifetime.”
The Minister clarified that a surrogate child will have all the rights that a biological child has, including right to property.
The Bill is likely to be brought up in the next session of Parliament.
The Minister also took a dig at Bollywood celebrities for using surrogacy despite having kids.
“These days there is a trend that some people who already have kids – both boy and girl – try to get another kid through surrogacy as they don’t want to put their wives in pain,” she added.
The legislation envisions setting up of a National Surrogacy Board and State Surrogacy Boards to regulate the process.
The 228th report of the Law Commission of India also recommended prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing ethical altruistic surrogacy through a suitable legislation.