The Surrogacy Regulation Bill (2019); Consequences for LGBTQ couples and Indian societyBeUnic
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019, which proposes to ban commercial surrogacy, was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 5. It was meant to regulate an otherwise shady industry but the resulting bill is still very questionable at best.
As per the Bill, only altruistic surrogacy will be legal, that too in cases where either or both members of the couple suffer from infertility, for which a certificate/proof is also required. Additionally, a certificate of eligibility is issued to the intending couple and is proof that the couple has been married for at least five years, and are Indian citizens. The wife must be in the age group of 23-50, and the husband in the age group of 26-55. The intending couple should not have any surviving biological child, through adoption or through surrogacy. An exception is made if the intending couple has a surviving child who is mentally or physically challenged, or is suffering from a fatal illness with no permanent cure.
This alienates and disenfranchised entire sections of society simply by omission. The bill denies women the freedom to choose what to do with their own bodies. Women are being forced to use their bodies for the “greater good” without pay, while sperm donors will continue to get paid. It’s ironic, sexist and downright toxic.
By omission of same-sex couples from the bill, it denies any LGBTQ couple the rights to a surrogate child – it was not even mentioned in the bill (but that’s a story for another day). Even those who marry late or are in a live-in relationship cannot easily find a surrogate mother without turning to their relatives. Not only does this open up the possibility of increased domestic violence and harassment, but also potentially increases the chance of miscarriages and endanger the surrogate mother.
As always, we are completely sidelining the psychological impact the separation of a mother and her baby that can take place. From the moment a child is born, skin-to-skin contact is observed in almost every pregnancy. However, due to a surrogate situation, the initial contact is avoided and the baby is taken away from the mother immediately after birth. The baby fails to feel the comfort of kin, and the mother is left to heal, to continue as though the life that she had nurtured within her for 9 months was just part of her usual day-to-day life. To make matters worse, the physiological lack of postnatal hormones can tip the mother into postpartum depression, yet, we choose to impart this on a woman who is a close relative of the new parents. This is unfair to the surrogate mother, the new parents and the innocent life brought into the world. It also opens up possibilities of rifts inside families.
To surmise, on the whole, the passing of this bill was the need of the hour. However, one needs to read between the lines to understand the implications on society it would have today and for years to come. This Bill is a work in progress and not as inclusive as we’d like it to be. However, that’s just our opinion – we would love to hear yours. Let us know in the comments below.