India moves to ban wombs for hire, allow only wedded Indian couples surrogacy route
New Delhi, Aug 24 (PTI): The government on Wednesday cleared a bill that bans commercial surrogacy, allows only legally-wedded Indian couples to use surrogate mothers and excludes single parents and homosexuals.
Aimed at checking unethical practices, the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, cleared by the Cabinet on Wednesday, proposes a jail term of up to ten years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh for violations, such as abandoning the child and opting for commercial surrogacy.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj told reporters the law will allow only legally wedded Indian couples married for at least five years to have children through surrogacy.
Swaraj headed the group of ministers that cleared the bill before it was sent to the Cabinet.
”Foreigners as well as NRIs and PIOs who hold OCI cards have been barred from opting for surrogacy,” Swaraj said, referring to non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin with overseas citizen of India cards.
”Unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and homosexuals cannot opt for surrogacy as per the bill. Legally wedded couples who have been married for at least five years, can opt for surrogacy,” she said.
Only “close relatives” of couples seeking children will be allowed to be surrogate mothers. A woman who offers her womb for the purpose will be able to do so only once.
Couples who don’t have close relatives will have to adopt a child.
Swaraj said that, with India having over 2,000 surrogacy clinics, there was need to regulate the practice and only altruisic surrogacy will be allowed.
The bill comes in the wake of India emerging as a surrogacy hub for couples and incidents being reported on unethical practices.
The bill, which will come up for consideration in Parliament during the Winter Session, aims to safeguard the rights of surrogate mothers and make parentage of such children legal.
Swaraj said successive governments had assured Parliament on eleven occasions to bring such a bill.
The government has decided that it will be referred to Parliament's Standing Committee on Health.
The minister said the new law would be notified 10 months after it is cleared by the two Houses to allow mothers who are already pregnant then to have a surrogate baby.
Swaraj lamented that the method has become a “fashion” for couples, especially celebrities.
”It has become a fashion especially with celebrities... People do not want to go through the labour pain and pay money to another woman to go through that process,” she said.
There have been incidents where girl children born out of surrogacy being abandoned or children with disorders being deserted, she said.