Pol­i­tics of the womb

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - @kun­dan­pandey158

Does the govern­ment has its heart in the right place on the new sur­ro­gacy bill?

Can't al­low woman's body for mak­ing money ANUPRIYA PA­TEL , Union­min­is­terof­s­tate­forhealth and­fam­i­ly­wel­fare

PEO­PLE OF­TEN say that sur­ro­gacy is a woman’s con­scious choice. Our stand is that it is a very wrong no­tion of the fam­ily to use the woman’s body to make money. Is she a child­pro­duc­ing fac­tory? In many cases, we have found that fam­ily mem­bers co­erce women into tak­ing up sur­ro­gacy. The bill aims to ban com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy and al­low only al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gacy. In most coun­tries, com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy has been banned, and a con­scious­ness has been cre­ated. No­body wants to pro­mote this idea, so why should In­dia lag be­hind? It is a men­ace.

For­eign na­tion­als, who want to es­cape tough sur­ro­gacy laws in their own coun­tries, come to In­dia in search of poor vul­ner­a­ble women, who can be used for rent­ing their wombs to pro­duce a baby for a petty amount of money very eas­ily in the ab­sence of reg­u­la­tions. Af­ter this bill is passed, they will be un­able to do so.

It is im­por­tant to note that 80 per cent of ba­bies born through sur­ro­gate mothers are tak­ing place for for­eign­ers, not Indians. Also, il­le­gal sur­ro­gacy has grown to be­come a $2 bil­lion in­dus­try. We want to com­mu­ni­cate that sur­ro­gacy should be the last op­tion, and only for Indians.

But sur­ro­gacy res­cued our fam­ily AHILYA PAR­MAR, (Namechanged),a28-year-old sur­ro­gate­moth­er­fromA­nand district,Gu­jarat

WITH THE help of sur­ro­gacy, I earned 600,000 in April, 2015, and bought a house for my fam­ily. Ear­lier, we were liv­ing in rented room. My hus­band is an au­torick­shaw driver, and I have two daugh­ters. We want to ed­u­cate our daugh­ters and help them live a dig­ni­fied life. And to achieve this, I may need to go for sur­ro­gacy again. My hus­band’s earn­ing is not even suf­fi­cient for food and cloth­ing. Ex­cept sur­ro­gacy, I don’t think I have any other op­tion.

I know many fam­i­lies who, if they don’t opt for sur­ro­gacy, will have to go to sleep hun­gry. In many fam­i­lies, the male mem­bers are not able to get job; some are drunk­ards. I also know fam­i­lies, where mem­bers are sick, and the women have to come for­ward and opt for sur­ro­gacy to treat them.

We were also go­ing through a tough time, when one of my neigh­bours sug­gested this idea. Sur­ro­gacy res­cued our fam­ily. And ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing my hus­band, agreed with my de­ci­sion. At present, my mother is sick, oth­er­wise, I would have gone for sur­ro­gacy once again. If govern­ment bans this op­tion, it will be tough for us. My daugh­ters’ fu­ture is im­por­tant to me. I don’t know how I will en­sure their ed­u­ca­tion.

A new `rel­a­tive' kind of gen­der ex­ploita­tion NAYANA PA­TEL , Med­i­caldirec­to­rofAkan­sha In­fer­til­ityandIVFClin­icinKaival Hos­pi­tal,Anand,Gu­jarat

AS PER the bill, com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy will now be banned, and only al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gacy will be al­lowed for in­fer­tile In­dian cou­ples who have been mar­ried for at least five years. More­over, only fe­males, who are close rel­a­tives, can be­come a sur­ro­gate for a child­less cou­ple.

The bill has been for­mu­lated based on the myth that the prac­tice of sur­ro­gacy ex­ploits sur­ro­gates. How­ever, en­dors­ing al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gacy too will lead to emo­tional and so­cial pres­sure on close fe­male rel­a­tives and make them oblige to be self­less, and not ask for any com­pen­sa­tion for the loss of liveli­hood, and the im­mense emo­tional and bod­ily labour of ges­ta­tion in­volved in sur­ro­gacy. Isn’t this an­other kind of ex­ploita­tion of fe­males?

Any force on a close rel­a­tive ei­ther emo­tional or oth­er­wise can amount to forced labour vi­o­lat­ing Ar­ti­cle 23 of the Con­sti­tu­tion. The bill bans sur­ro­gacy for live-in part­ners, sin­gle par­ents, ho­mo­sex­u­als, over­seas cit­i­zens of In­dia, per­sons of In­dian ori­gin and for­eign­ers. The Supreme Court recog­nises

live-in re­la­tion­ships, but the bill does not. Why? Mar­riage, in­deed, is a very per­sonal choice.

The com­pen­sa­tion a sur­ro­gate gets only em­pow­ers her fam­ily. The govern­ment should not rely on fem­i­nist views to ar­tic­u­late its po­si­tion. Ar­ti­cle 14 of the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees “equal­ity be­fore the law and equal pro­tec­tion of laws to all per­sons”. Ar­ti­cle 21 guar­an­tees “pro­tec­tion of life and per­sonal lib­erty of all per­sons”. Re­strict­ing con­di­tional sur­ro­gacy to mar­ried In­dian cou­ples and dis­qual­i­fy­ing oth­ers on the ba­sis of na­tion­al­ity, mar­i­tal sta­tus, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or age, does not ap­pear to pass the test of equal­ity and there is no con­nec­tion with the in­tended ob­jec­tives of the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion.

Fur­ther, the Right to Life in­cludes the right to re­pro­duc­tive au­ton­omy, which in­cludes the right to pro­cre­ation and par­ent­hood. It is not for the State to de­cide the modes of par­ent­hood. Con­sti­tu­tion­ally, the State can­not in­ter­fere in the pre­rog­a­tive of a per­son(s) to have chil­dren, nat­u­rally or through sur­ro­gacy.

It still sup­ports the re­pro­duc­tive mar­ket

WHILE THE reg­u­la­tory move re­stricts who can ac­cess sur­ro­gacy, there is no pro­hi­bi­tion on the prac­tice of sur­ro­gacy per se. Al­low­ing sur­ro­gacy only for het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples who are child­less, and have been mar­ried for five years, is dis­crim­i­na­tory to­wards peo­ple who re­main out­side the frame­work of mar­riage in a het­ero-pa­tri­archy—sin­gle par­ents, cou­ples in a live-in re­la­tion­ship and queer peo­ple.

Only a few pro­vi­sions of the new bill have been com­mu­ni­cated by the govern­ment, while the bill it- self is not yet in the pub­lic do­main. The reg­u­la­tory ra­tio­nale seems to be cen­tered on two axes—the no­tion of an “ideal” fam­ily and “com­merce” in re­pro­duc­tion. In its le­git­imi­sa­tion of “al­tru­is­tic” sur­ro­gacy within “close rel­a­tives”, the bill draws upon the pa­tri­ar­chal as­sump­tion of women’s na­ture as be­ing sac­ri­fi­cial and al­tru­is­tic. It also seeks to bring back re­pro­duc­tive labour from the mar­ket to the fam­ily and house­hold lev­els, which are do­mains where women’s labour is avail­able as a “free” re­source for con­sump­tion by “close rel­a­tives”.

If ex­ploita­tion of women in the mar­ket is a con­cern, then their ex­ploita­tion within fam­i­lies is also a re­al­ity that must be ad­dressed. It re­mains to be seen whether the bill pro­vides safe­guards against co­er­cion of women by fam­ily mem­bers to be­come sur­ro­gate mothers, as this would be yet an­other ex­am­ple of gen­der vi­o­lence.

It is in­ter­est­ing that the phe­nom­e­non of com­mer­cial sur­ro­gacy is found to be ob­jec­tion­able only be­cause the woman act­ing as the sur­ro­gate re­ceives re­mu­ner­a­tion. Apart from this as­pect, there is no dif­fer­ence be­tween what is known as com­mer­cial and al­tru­is­tic sur­ro­gacy. In its mod­ern “ges­ta­tional” avatar, sur­ro­gacy is mar­keted as an “in­fer­til­ity treat­ment” us­ing the tech­nique of In Vitro Fer­til­i­sa­tion ( ivf). But the broader is­sue, which must re­ceive reg­u­la­tory at­ten­tion, is the ques­tion of how such “treat­ment” is ad­min­is­tered—the use of hor­monal drugs and in­jec­tions, mul­ti­ple ivf cy­cles, ef­fects on the phys­i­cal as well as men­tal health of women, whether in­formed con­sent has been taken from them, their right to re­pro­duc­tive au­ton­omy and the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the sur­ro­gate mother and the child she gives birth to. In this some­what moral­is­tic clam­our over ban­ning pay­ments to sur­ro­gate mothers, ad­e­quate dis­cus­sion on these is­sues has been side­lined.

The bill has also left out the com­mer­cial and profit-driven in­dus­try of the As­sisted Re­pro­duc­tive Tech­nolo­gies ( arts), which is over­whelm­ingly found in the pri­vate health­care sec­tor. In­fer­til­ity treat­ment us­ing arts and ivf has been avail­able com­mer­cially in In­dia for over three decades now. Yet there is no reg­u­la­tion that gov­erns this sec­tor. Though guide­lines were for­mu­lated by the In­dian Coun­cil of Med­i­cal Re­search in 2005, they are not legally bind­ing. While it is im­por­tant to de­bate sur­ro­gacy, at the same time, the arts in­dus­try, which drives it, must also be reg­u­lated.

SAROJINI N AND SNEHA BANERJEE, Sa­maRe­sourceGroup­forWom­e­nandHealth,NewDelhi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.