The bill banning commercial surrogacy has been passed in Lok Sabha.
• The bill aims to shut down surrogacy shops, allowing only altruistic surrogacy, and banning commercial surrogacy.
• It will be the first step to prevent India becoming the surrogacy capital of the world.
• Definition: Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby an intending couple commissions a surrogate mother to carry their child. It is often supported by a legal agreement.
Salient Features of the Bill:
• Only altruistic surrogacy allowed: The Bill allows that only close relative of the couple can be surrogate mothers and it must be purely for “altruistic” reasons. The surrogate mother will not be paid any compensation except medical expenses and insurance.
• Beneficiaries: It states that only an Indian infertile and childless couple, legally married for five years or more, are allowed to go for ‘altruistic surrogacy’.
• No to Foreign Nationals: Foreign nationals will not be allowed to apply for surrogacy in India, making it exclusively for Indian citizens.
• Penal provisions: Undertaking surrogacy for a fee, advertising it or exploiting the surrogate mother will be punishable with imprisonment for 10 years and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
• Surrogacy Boards: Once enacted by Parliament, the National Surrogacy Board will be constituted at the central level, while the states and Union Territories will constitute the State Surrogacy Boards and State Appropriate Authorities within three months of the notification by the Central Government.
• Appropriate authorities, appointed by central and state government, will grant eligibility certificates to the intending couple and the surrogate mother. These authorities will also regulate surrogacy clinics.
Significance of the Bill:
• India emerging as a surrogacy capital of the world: India had become a hub of commercial surrogacy and surrogate mothers who were being exploited. The bill rightly aims to stop this process.
• To curb unethical practices: The Bill comes against the backdrop of reports that stated of unethical practices, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and illegal rackets importing human embryos and gametes.
• Protecting the rights of women and children: The decision is big and is in the interest of all women and children. Earlier, the system became exploitative of poor women due to the dearth of regulation.
Concerns Raised with the Bill:
• No rights for surrogacy to LGBTQ community: In various recent rulings from NALSA judgement to Navtej Singh Johar case, the trans-sex and intersex community has given their due right to life with dignity. But, the surrogacy bill fails to incorporate any provision for the rights of LGBTQ or same- sex couples regarding surrogacy.
• Long waiting period of 5 years: Surrogacy is a moral, social and emotional issue concerning parenthood. There must not be a 5-year clause to prove infertility, when science and technology has progressed so much.
• Negligence of small family couples: The bill provides for only a married blood relative, who must have herself borne a child, and is not an NRI or a foreigner, can be a surrogate mother, that too once in a lifetime.
- Hence, the bill neglects those couple who do not have immediate blood line relatives or live in a nuclear family set up. It compromises their right to have child through surrogacy.
• The bill is right in its intent but falls too short from being comprehensive in nature. It needs more deliberation over the rights of same-sex couple and couples with nuclear family set up to have the child through surrogate mother.