New Delhi: India on Wednesday completely banned commercial surrogacy, permitting only “altruistic surrogacy” for Indian infertile couples who have been married for at least five years. The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 seeking a ban on single parents, unmarried couples, live-in partners and homosexuals from opting for surrogacy was on Wednesday cleared by the Union Cabinet. It is likely to be brought before Parliament. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, briefing the media, said the need to regulate surrogacy was felt as India had emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples. “There was an issue of women’s health and about the rights of children born out of surrogacy that needed to be dealt with. This is a comprehensive Bill. Childless couples who are medically unfit to have children can take help from a close relative,” she said. The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy, which includes banning foreigners from surrogacy in India, while also making it illegal for NRIs or Overseas Citizens of India.
Surrogacy only for childless
As first reported by this newspaper earlier, the Centre has decided to keep this substitute arrangement of renting a womb confined to kith, kin and friends. Besides this, the couples who already have a biological or an adopted child will not be allowed to have a second child via altruistic surrogacy.
The bill has a provision for a jail term upto 10 years and a Rs 10-lakh fine for violations, like abandoning the child and opting for commercial surrogacy. Under the bill, the surrogate, who offers her womb for the purpose of bearing the child, will be able to do so only "once". She should also be married and have borne a healthy child," the bill states. Significantly, a wedded couple seeking a surrogate child must have been married for at least five years, with the woman being between 23 and 50, and her husband being between 26 and 55 years, the bill declares.
The bill also makes it clear that the surrogate child will have equal rights in inheritance and other matters as the biological or adopted child. Ms Swaraj said the ban would be introduced 10 months after the bill is passed in Parliament in order to give appropriate time to pregnant women.
The bill also seeks to set up national surrogacy board at the Central level under the chairmanship of the Union health minister, and similar boards will have to be set up in states and Union territories too to regulate surrogacy clinics. These clinics will have to be registered once the law comes to force. According to government figures, there are around 3,000 surrogacy clinics in India. "The surrogacy clinics will have to keep records of the surrogate child for at least 25 years. Any violation on their part will invite 10 years of imprisonment and fine upto Rs 10 lakhs," added Ms Swaraj.
With this, India joins the list of countries like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Mexico, Britain, Canada, Spain, France and the Philippines, where commercial surrogacy is banned. In fact, policymakers read in detail the UK surrogacy law before giving the go-ahead to the proposed bill. “The UK confines surrogacy only to blood relatives. We have expanded it close relatives — which could be mother, aunt, etc," Ms Sushma Swaraj further added....