Delhi wants to ban surrogacy
by Nirmala Carvalho

The government presents a bill imposing new rules. Only Indian couples married for at least five years can resort to artificial insemination and surrogate mothers should be parental relatives. They exclude singles, foreigners and homosexuals.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - It will no longer be possible to exploit the female body for commercial purposes. This was decided yesterday the Government of India, presenting the new bill that regulates the practice of surrogacy to the public.

According to the legislation, that still has to be debated in Parliament, only infertile Indian couples can resort to surrogacy pregnancy and the surrogate mother must be a close relative of the couple. In an effort to put an end to a practice that has made India the world capital of the womb-for-rent industry, the government has ruled out entirely singles, gays and foreigners.

Dr. Pascoal Carvalho, a Catholic doctor and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told AsiaNews: "This law is a step forward towards the traditional values ​​of the family. Subrogation is a manipulation of embryos".

In recent years India has become a top destination for medical tourism, particularly for the in vitro treatment or surrogacy. Each year the assisted fertilization industry netted an estimated 5 billion dollars [4.4 billion euro] and the country has more than 500 clinics.

Couples with fertility problems, especially foreign parents usually from rich countries, come to the country in search of surrogates mostly belonging to the poorer classes, who "rent" their wombs in exchange for money and frequently are victims of exploitation.

The commodification of the female body has created a burgeoning market, also accentuated by the "cheaper" costs of pregnancies compared to Western countries: between 18 thousand and 30 thousand dollars (one third of the price in the US), of which about 8 thousand belong to the woman who carried the embryos donated by couples in her womb.

The Indian authorities have decided to fight the industry of commercial surrogacy, ruling that the practice must be a kind of "altruistic surrogacy". Presenting the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016, yesterday Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has defined new conditions: the couple must be married for at least five years; the uterus donor should be a relative and not receive compensation for the altruistic task; clinics that operate in the sector must be registered.

Also anyone who breaks the new law, unlawfully taking advantage of mothers or manipulating embryos, will be punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and fines of up to one million rupees (more than EUR 13 thousand). Dr. Carvalho concludes: "Surrogacy is a threat to the intrinsic value of human dignity".