Why People Are Angry About India’s New Surrogacy Rules – Time Magazine
New Delhi, Feb. 15, 2013
Why People Are Angry About India’s New Surrogacy Rules
A new government regulation has left 28-year-old Sunita Devi worried about the future of the baby she is carrying. Sunita, who is already showing at five months, is a surrogate mother, carrying the child of a single Canadian man. Wearing a yellow salwar suit and a long, well-oiled braid, Sunita is visibly upset as she talks about a memo that India’s Home Ministry circulated late last year to Indian missions abroad, stipulating that gay couples, single men or women, non-married couples, and well as couples from countries where surrogacy is illegal, be prohibited from hiring a commercial surrogate in India. As of an unspecified date, foreigners who want to hire a surrogate must be a “man and woman,” the new rule says, “[who] are duly married and the marriage should be sustained at least two years.” Now Sunita is worried that the child she is carrying may not be able to be handed over to its Canadian father. “I will be carrying this baby for nine months,” she says. “But what if after I give birth, it doesn’t get a home?”
The new conditions laid down by India are tough, and have thrown a pall over the booming sector. The Delhi-based International Fertility Center, where Sunita is registered as a surrogate, says the new regulation will affect 5-7% of their business. Doctors are worried their medical tourism businesses will take a hit, and surrogates, who get paid about $5000-$7000 for carrying a child to term, are worried that their livelihood is in jeopardy.
Some also question what they say is an uncharacteristically moralistic stand on the government’s part. “No doubt marriage is a sacrosanct institution in India, but it is not so in many western countries,” says Rita Bakshi, one of India’s top fertility experts who runs the International Fertility Centre. “Who are we to say that one has to be married to have children?” Since India decriminalized homosexuality in 2011, Mamet’s agency in Israel has sent over 100 gay couples to India. “The Indian society is considered by foreigners as very receptive and very welcoming — whoever you are, you are not being judged,” he says. “The new homophobic rule already affects the prestige of India as an open society.”