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19 Jun 2017

Rent-a-womb scam: Hyderabad hospital held lowly-paid surrogates captive

Hyderabad's rent-a-womb scam: Exploited women held captive

A rent-a-womb scam was unearthed at Hyderabad's Sai Kiran Hospital when police found over 40 surrogate mothers confined inside a room.

Apparently, the women were held captive and not allowed to go out of a room for nine months. The hospital would charge exorbitant amounts from couples, but pay surrogates only 10% of it.

Shockingly, operations seem to have smoothly run since four years.

In context

Hyderabad's rent-a-womb scam: Exploited women held captive
Surrogate mothers were confined inside a room for nine months


Surrogate mothers were confined inside a room for nine months

The Kiran Fertility Centre started surrogacy services four years ago. The brokers, Sai and Salma, would lure in vulnerable women and take them to such centres.

Kiran Fertility would virtually keep the women captive for nine months, not allowing them to go out. They would be provided food and rest right there.

The women were paid Rs. 5,000-10,000 monthly, and the rest upon delivery.


Hospital charged couples exorbitantly, but paid surrogates very lowly

Task Force inspector Srinivas said the hospital reportedly collected Rs. 15-30 lakh for the service, depending on the status of the couple. Meanwhile, the surrogate mothers were paid a mere 10% of the amount; hospital officials pocketed the rest.

At the time of raids, 47 cases were discovered. However, despite absence of records, officials suspect over 300 cases had been conducted by the hospital.

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Thousands of women in the world's "surrogacy hub" left exposed


Thousands of women in the world's "surrogacy hub" left exposed

India is recognized as the "surrogacy hub" of the world. Commercial surrogacy has been legal since 2002, and the industry is estimated to be worth over $2.3bn annually.

Cheap services drew in many from abroad for surrogacy in women.

But there were no laws for regulation; the mother would often be left exposed and unprotected, and helpless at the whims of brokers and hospitals.


What does the law say?

A draft Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill was formulated in 2010, but wasn't passed. It enabled single parents of both sexes to choose surrogacy. However, it didn't do much for surrogate mothers.

Last year, the cabinet cleared the Surrogacy Bill, 2016, which banned commercial surrogacy. Only Indian infertile couples will be allowed altruistic surrogacy; the mother delivering the child wouldn't be paid anything extra either.


So what will happen to Sai Kiran and those involved?

No case has been filed yet. Officials are awaiting report from the district medical and health officer.

Dr. Sumit Shekar, who ran the hospital, said he had been granted permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research.

However, when asked, "he was ignorant of taking permission from the Telangana government too".

Only three surrogacy units in Hyderabad have been approved by the state.

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