India, Lok Sabha approves the law against surrogacy

The government wants to encourage the adoption of abandoned children. Only Indian couples who have been married for at least five years will be able to resort to assisted fertilization and surrogate mothers must be relatives of the parents. Poor regulation has made India the world capital of rented wombs.

New Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Lok Sabha (Lower House) of the Indian Parliament has approved the law banning surrogate motherhood for "commercial" purposes. The final vote arrived yesterday evening, after a heated discussion.

The legislation states that only Indian sterile couples will be able to resort to maternity substitution and the pregnancy will be completed by a close relative of the spouses. The goal is to put an end to a practice that has made India the world capital of the wombs-for-rent and foster the adoption of abandoned children.

The standard is called Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 and includes a series of limitations: only married couples who have been married for at least five years will be able to resort to assisted fertilization; the "rented" mother will not be able to receive compensation and will offer her womb in an altruistic form; singles, foreigners and homosexuals are excluded from the possibility of resorting to maternity substitution; anyone who illegally exploits mothers or manipulates embryos can be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years and with fines of up to one million rupees (more than 13 thousand euro).

In India the commodification of the female body has created a flourishing market, favored by the low costs of pregnancies (from 18 to 30 thousand dollars, a third of the price in the USA) compared to Western countries. This is why the country has become a privileged destination for medical tourism, in particular for in vitro treatments or surrogate motherhood. The assisted fertilization sector earns about $ 5 billion annually (€ 4.4 billion) and there are more than 500 clinics in the country.

According to Balram Bhargava, secretary of the Department of Medical Research of the Ministry for Health and Family Welfare, the law will have a positive impact on the number of adoptions, "which are a noble cause". Data from the Central Adoption Resource Authority (Cara), the authority that regulates adoptive practices in India, report that only 3,276 abandoned children found the warmth of an adoptive family between April 2017 and March 2018. The law also added secretary, "protecting mothers and children. We have so many examples of surrogate women harassed because of poor regulation ".