In a bit of exciting legislation the cabinet gave its approval for the introduction of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016. The draft bill was in the pipeline for quite some time now. According to the Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj who commented on the legislation, there was a need in India to provide the template for ethical practices towards surrogacy.
Addressing a press conference after the Union Cabinet gave its approval for introduction of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, Swaraj said that the Bill comes as India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples and incidents reported on unethical practices
The minister said that the Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows ethical surrogacy to needy infertile couples. “It also prohibits Single parents, homosexual couples, live-in relationships couples to opt for altruistic surrogacy,” said Swaraj.
She took a jibe at Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan saying that even celebrities with two children had made us of surrogacy.
She said, “Big celebrities who not only have one but two children, a son and a daughter, even then they went ahead with Surrogacy.”
Swaraj also said that, “Jo cheez zaroorat ke naam pe shuru ki gayi thi woh ab shauk ban gayi hai (What had been started as a need has now become a trend).”
The crux of the problem for her doesn’t seem to be infertility or surrogacy, but morality. The minister has decided that single women should not have sex, gay men having sex should be arrested and the key thrown away, and people in “live-in” relationships are committing a sin and are not morally fit to bring up children.
And anything against “our ethos”, which Swaraj sees clearly in black and white despite India’s technicolour canvas, has to be banned.
The minister’s self-righteousness has taken away the focus from the person this law is supposed to protect: the poor surrogate who rents her womb.
A further caveat emphasizes that a couple who already has a biological child or an adopted child would definitely not be allowed to avail the services of surrogacy.
A Group of Ministers (GoM) had recently cleared the bill and had referred it to the Union Cabinet for a final call.
The GoM was constituted at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Apart from Health Minister J P Nadda, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal were among those part of the GoM.
The government had recently admitted that in the absence of a statutory mechanism to control commissioning of surrogacy at present, there have been cases of pregnancies by way of surrogacy, including in rural and tribal areas, leading to possible exploitation of women by unscrupulous elements.