What India’s Bias Against Same Sex Couples Is Doing To The Country’s Surrogacy Business

Posted on July 31, 2015

By Vasudha Singh

Parenting is a fulfilling experience that many individuals wish to undertake in their lives. Due to conditions outside of their control many people find themselves incapable undergoing this experience and suffer emotionally at the lack of an avenue for the basic instinct of nurturing. Surrogacy is then a means of making this possible.

In India commercial surrogacy is legal. The Law Commission of India, based on the guidelines of the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to regulate Assisted Reproductive Technology procedures submitted the 228th report discussing the importance, need for surrogacy, and steps to control surrogacy arrangements. It provides legislation for respecting the privacy of the surrogate with an insistence on consent and contract based financial arrangements, calling for one of the parents to be the donor to respect the bond of affection.

surrogacy in india

Lack of skilled personnel and/or technology in their own country, shortage of donors, exclusion from services due to marital status or sexual orientation and services being available for cheaper prices in other countries are generally the reasons for cross border surrogacy. The cost of surrogacy in India ($30,000-$40,000) is significantly lower compared to US ($120,000-$180,000).

The Other Cost Of Surrogacy

There have been instances of forced surrogacies, arrangements where the surrogate plays little to no part in the decision making process, is lied to about the effects of the hormones and is implanted with multiple embryos for a higher chance pregnancy causing havoc to their health. The clinics or middlemen generally opt for women from poor, illiterate backgrounds for easy money and least risk.

Parents too suffer if the surrogate has a change of heart. Moreover there can be medical complications which cause the parents to shell out money at every stage, increasing the cost many times.

Law Defines A Parent, Not Love

In 2012 the Indian government issued a notification disallowing single/same-sex parents from using surrogates, thus ‘first world treatment at third world prices’ (Health Tourism India) is denied to one of the the biggest consumers of the surrogate market. As a result, other countries such as Thailand and Nepal gained footing in this market. Nepal allows surrogacy for foreign nationals, but the intended parents or the surrogate mother cannot be of Nepali origin. Due to lack of any strict regulations and porous borders, Indian surrogates are brought to Nepal, most probably after the embryo plantation is completed and the child then gets the document for exit from Nepal. However this entire business is conducted in secrecy so the transactions and associated economic benefit is only restricted to the Indian fertility clinics.

The Economics Of Surrogacy

In 2012, the surrogacy market generated $2 billion in India. International Social Work calls the Health Tourism industry as the “country’s second most popular industry” with 5% contribution in GDP (2013) and is expected to grow to $280 billion by 2020.

However, the surrogacy market largely works on black economy. With only 39 of 3000 fertility clinics in India being registered with the ICMR and even fewer following the guidelines, many of these transactions are illegal, and therefore are not counted in the GDP of India. The case of Indian surrogates in Nepal could be counted in the Gross National Product (GNP) of the nation which takes into account goods and services produced by a national outside the country as well.

With infertility on the rise, India needs to firstly, regulate the market so that all transactions are accounted for and secondly, India needs to legalise surrogacy for same sex couples and single parents. 21 countries have made same sex marriage legal and for India to willingly discount its contribution based on archaic laws of the British rule, is irrational. The Third World has a chance to set precedence of social justice and religious reasons for the ‘abnormality’ of same sex marriage does not and should not find place in it.

A few gender imbalanced laws should not deny any human being the chance of experiencing parenting, with their constitutions guaranteeing human dignity for all. All indicators point towards a pro same sex legislation and market regulation, moreover the economy demands it. Lastly, the society will benefit from a regulated market of nurturing than an exploitative one for the parents, surrogate and the child.

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