Commercial surrogacy bill introduced in Lok Sabha
The government has introduced the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, in the Lok Sabha; the bill seeks to tighten norms for commercial surrogacy in India. The lack of a regulated surrogacy framework has led to concerns of unethical practices and exploitation of surrogate mothers; the bill seeks to address these concerns. The bill only allows Indians to opt for surrogacy, not foreigners or PIOs.
Commercial surrogacy's ugly side
India and Thailand have become the world's biggest hubs for commercial surrogacy in the past decade. Thailand banned commercial surrogacy in February 2015 when an Australian couple abandoned one of their twins in Thailand because he had Down's syndrome. In 2014, another Australian couple went home with just one of the twins because they wanted a girl, leaving their son behind in Delhi.
The Health Ministry Proposal
The Surrogacy Bill draft was made keeping in mind the regulation of surrogacy commissioning in India in a proper manner. The Group of Ministers constituted at the behest of the PMO included Health Minister J P Nadda, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal. GoM had recently cleared the bill and referred it to the Cabinet for a decision.
Cabinet proposes ban on "commercial surrogacy"
On Wednesday, a draft bill which aims to safeguard the rights of surrogate mothers and make parentage of such children legal was cleared by the Cabinet. It was to be taken up by the Cabinet on April 27, 2016, but was dropped from the agenda at the last moment. It will be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament later this year.
Sushma Swaraj condemns 'celebrity culture' of misusing surrogacy
Swaraj said that the Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows ethical surrogacy to needy infertile couples. She took a shot at celebrities who opted for surrogacy, making it a trend. In 2013, Shah Rukh Khan's third baby was born through surrogacy, which triggered an ethical controversy. It is banned in developed countries like Australia, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Japan.
For the purpose of 'altruism'
To prevent exploitation of women, especially in tribal and rural areas, the government has prohibited foreigners and NRIs from commissioning surrogacy. Surrogacy will be allowed for altruistic purposes only and no money shall be paid except for medical expenses. Homosexuals, live-in partners and single parents won't be allowed access to surrogacy. Couples having kids or an adopted child will be barred from using surrogacy.
Under the new bill, couples abandoning a surrogate baby risk 10 year imprisonment and Rs.10 lakh fine, or both. It makes it illegal for doctors to carry out procedures that hurt the surrogate mother and the baby's health. It also envisions a national regulator to oversee clinics that offer surrogate services and a surrogacy regulation board will be set-up at Central and state level.
Important legislations taken up the Cabinet today
Cabinet approved several decisions including Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill and railway expansion projects of Rs.24,374crore in 9 States. Enhancement of compensation to civilian victims and India-Cyprus agreement for prevention of double-taxation and fiscal evasion were cleared. Signing of new Air Services Agreement between India & Fiji, cadre restructuring of Indian Information Service Group-A, signing of MoU for India & South Africa cooperation were also taken-up.