New Delhi: With India becoming a hub for surrogacy, human rights bodies have called for rights-based legal framework to safeguard the interests of all major stakeholders.
The unregulated reproductive tourism industry of `procreating` through surrogacy is rapidly increasing in India while there is still no legal provision to safeguard the interests of all the major stakeholders involved in the surrogacy arrangement, said Centre for Social Research (CSR).
According to a study conducted by CSR in 2011-12, though the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Regulation Bill, 2010 did bring forth certain important points for the legal framework to be based on, it has left out many crucial issues relating to surrogacy arrangements.
"There are many issues besides sex selection and exploitation of the poor surrogate mothers. There are countries that do not allow surrogacy, then what would the nationality of the child be when the intended parents are from that country? About 48 per cent couples opting for surrogacy are foreigners," said Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research.
Quoting the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director, the survey claimed approximately 2,000 babies are born every year through commercial surrogacy. CII figures claim that surrogacy is a $2.3 billion industry in India, because it is largely unregulated and cheap. Clinics function in tight cliques, with unrelated centres like dental clinics sometimes assisting fertility clinics.
Although there are no fixed rules related to the amount of compensation for the surrogate mother, it is arbitrarily decided by the clinics. Often the woman who delivers the baby is paid very less for it. Though the couple who wants to have a baby through surrogate mothers pays anything between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 5 lakh to agents, the woman who delivers the baby gets only Rs 75,000 to Rs 1 lakh, the report claimed.
The "rent-a-womb" procedure has thrown up a major debate whether it should be banned like a majority of the countries have done or should there be a law to regulate it.
"There have been cases when many countries refused to give citizenship to children who were born through surrogate mothers in India. We need to have a proper legal framework to decide on the rights of the child, surrogate mother and the couple who becomes the custodian of the new born," said Dr Kumari of Centre for Social Research.
The desire for motherhood leads child-less couples and single persons or gay couples to search for alternative solutions, and surrogacy presents itself as the most viable alternative, she said.
Cheap medical facilities, advanced reproductive technological know-how, coupled with poor socio-economic conditions, and a lack of regulatory laws in India in this regard combine to make India an attractive option.
The business of providing `wombs on rent` in the country has catapulted India to a whopping trade valued at US $500 million and the number of cases of surrogacy is believed to be increasing at a galloping rate, she added.