Bengaluru: Failing to conceive the natural way, many couples take the IVF route. Sadly, not many know that in-vitro reproduction can harm the child, hurt its mother; haunt the father if his own infertility revisits his offspring. Combining investigation with analysis, international studies with insight, questioning those who lead the worldwide onslaught on the woman’s womb in the name of her child, author Pinki Virani uncovers the wraps for those seeking artificial assistance to further their bloodline in her book – ‘Politics Of The Womb – The Perils Of IVF, Surrogacy & Modified Babies’.
The national award-winning author Pinki Virani has written five bestselling books which have given voice to those who have none. Her books have also led to landmark legislation for three of the most powerless times in a person’s life: During sexual assault, in the beginning as a child and at the end as an irreversibly-ill patient. The writer takes time out to discuss not only her book but also the recent Surrogacy Regulation Bill (2016) with Deccan Chronicle.
What made you choose this topic?
I honestly don’t know why I even begin to research the books I write. I sometimes –ruefully I might add – think I have nothing to do with it; that perhaps it’s the books and their issues within which choose me.
What is it that you want people to understand through your book?
With ‘Politics Of The Womb’, there is now information – for the very first time, anywhere in the world – in the public domain on all that was being kept secret and away from those who really matter. That is, those who are living through the trauma of what they are told is their fault, they are being branded as “infertile”. Then the women are being made to undergo the trials and tribulations of putting themselves through painful artificial reproductive processes. With ‘Politics of The Womb’ they are now armed to address, and question, medical power. They are equipped to make their own informed choice.
Could you throw some light on the whole business of IVF which experts say is a glimmer of hope for couples who want a baby?
What the “experts” – who presumably have a financial stake in what has become a bizarre baby bazaar – forget to inform their patients is of the downsides. How safe is it, really? In what has become for many a surreal world of hope, hormones and hype, “Politics of The Womb” concentrates on the human element – especially the woman and her intending child – which the “experts” have sacrificed in the name of their supposed science.
The recent Surrogacy Regulation Bill (2016) has been criticised by many who feel it is unfair to those people who clinically qualify to take the surrogacy path. What is your view on the Bill?
What this Bill does is ban commercial surrogacy, and it stops it for everybody without any discrimination. India is among the last countries to do so, and it’s about time. All the vested interests who want to reduce the bodies of Indian women to commercial considerations – and thereby commodify a child – should think about this scenario. Touts going to the tandas (settlements where tribals live in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) with the sole purpose of identifying tribal women who could be sucked into commercial surrogacy. These women were brought into the cities and their bodies were used, and re-used as commercial surrogates. If they miscarried, they were not paid; in some cases they were not even given the bus fare to go back to their tandas. Then there are women all over India, like the one written about in ‘Politics of The Womb’ in Tamil Nadu, whose husbands force them to become commercial surrogates as do their mothers-in-law. If they refuse, it is taken out on their girl child. It’s time certain sections of upper classes – be they from the so-called “fertility clinics” or the baby-buyers, those wanting to pay for their progeny – put away their financial and genetic greed.
Is the Bill strong enough to prevent instances of oocyte trafficking? What is your take on the draft ART Bill?
The Surrogacy Bill deals only with altruistic surrogacy. The ART Bill will need to deal with oocyte trafficking. In its current state, the ART draft does not even begin to reflect on-ground realities. For example, there is a place in Bengaluru which pretends to be a “fertility clinic” but in reality is just an oocyte-buying centre. This means women – from all walks of life – are lured into it by other women (who get a cut) or from touts (ditto). They are filled up choc-a-block with synthesised hormones – some are even given the injections to take home and stab themselves in the stomach with it – and then 25-30-40 eggs are harvested in one go. (Normally, a woman releases only one egg a month.) “Politics of The Womb” lists the risks of what can, and does, happen to some of these women from cancer to infertility, thereby turning them dependent on the very same repro tech which lured them.