Surrogacy Bill useless without ART Bill: Committee to Rajya Sabha

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Now the bill restricts the uptake of such services for heterosexual married couples only. "The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Department should broadbase the eligibility criteria in this regard and widen the ambit of persons who can avail surrogacy services by including live-in couples, divorced women/ widows", the report said.

The committee noted that permitting women to provide reproductive labour but not paying them for the same was unfair and biased.

"Pregnancy is not a one-minute job but a labour of nine months with far-reaching implications regarding her health, her time and her family".

The committee headed by Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said there were adequate provisions in the Bill for an appropriate authority to scrutinise documents submitted by the intending couple before commissioning surrogacy and to reject an application in case of any violation of rules.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002, when the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laid out guidelines for the procedure, which made the practice legal, but did not give it legislative backing, which helped the industry to boom in India, without much legal interference or enforcements.

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The committee has also criticized the five-year period that an "infertile" couple may have to wait out before opting for surrogacy as unreasonable. "Such a proposition, however, ignores the ground reality that in Indian marital homes the decision-making power rarely rests with women and not so privileged or financially weak relatives who can be coerced into becoming surrogate mothers and the chances of coercion and exploitation are even more in case of close relatives due to family pressures", as quoted by Indian Express.

According to the committee, a mere enactment of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill would not serve the objective of controlling commercialisation of surrogacy facilities across the country because surrogacy procedures can not be conducted without assisted reproduction techniques. The committee, which has raised several issues with the bill, has "strongly" recommended that the Assisted Reproduction Technologies (ART) Bill be brought forth before it.

The committee observed that the ART Bill, 2008, has been lying with the government since 2014 after having been revised twice.

For many years now, India has been a hot destination for foreigners looking for low-priced surrogate mothers, sparking concerns about the exploitation of impoverished Indian women by unscrupulous doctors and middle-men.

The one suggestion from the original Bill that the committee was in complete agreement with was that foreigners should not be allowed to commission Indian women as surrogates.

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