As a feminist who believes in equal rights for women, I am appalled by the phrase “wombs on rent”. How can someone’s body organ be on “rent”? There have also been reports of how badly “some” of the surrogates were used again and again.
The bodies of some of the surrogates were made into baby making machines. They produced babies one after the other for the lust of money. It is also not untrue that women are in the lowermost strata of the social empowerment ladder, just above children and animals, who are the most abused.
Having said that, we also need to realise that these women are adults. It is the duty of the state to ensure that adults like them are empowered enough to take independent decisions and don’t end up abusing their bodies for the lack of education, employment opportunities or social stigma.
While I completely understand where fellow activists are coming from, I don’t think a ban would solve the issue. I think calculated regulation would ensure that surrogates don’t abuse their bodies and also ensure that they are registered for medical access, go through a pre-pregnancy social evaluation and psychological evaluation. We should also have a fixed number of surrogate children that a surrogate mother could deliver in a lifetime.
We need to ensure that she is able to take an informed decision and is not at the risk of abusing herself at the behest of her husband or in-laws. The government can also ensure that social stigma and the “need” to have more children in this world comes to an end.
Have we ever thought about the lives of the surrogates post this ban? Do we have provisions to empower them with an alternate income? Or, a plan to wipe out social stigma which fuels the need for women and men to have children in order to escape being socially ostracised for the presumption of impotency?
Do we have a plan to boost adoption as an alternate to having your own children? Or, procedures on how to phase out surrogacy?
The answer to all of these questions is NO. We have instead issued a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy because it is the easiest thing to do. I totally believe that the rights of a surrogate mother are important and, so is her choice for a better life by earning from this service and ensuring that her own children have a secure life.
I was in an NDTV show last night with Sunetra Chowdhary. Chowdhary also had surrogate mothers on her show who said that they were happy to offer the service of bearing children for a cost.
These women are adults who have every right to decide what they want to do with their bodies. We can’t keep devaluing the word of adults like them. We can’t keep telling adult women who voluntarily make decisions about their bodies that their decision has been forced into them.
Yes, we need to empower them, educate them and sociologically evaluate them before they decide to go into surrogacy. It might help to have a mandatory certificate by a psychiatrist before one goes in for surrogacy to ensure that she is not forced into believing that this is the only way out of a financial crisis that is lurking over her or her family.
Moreover, even if one would still argue that the bill is good for women rights, Union Minister Sushma Swaraj has completely squashed every possibility of it being taken seriously by actually making this about a war against homosexual couples, single parents, live in couples and rich people who don’t want to go through labour pain.
In her opinion, it is against the Indian "ethos" for homosexuals to have children. I find it insulting that she is reducing my nation to a homophobic one. She forgot that India has the culture of accepting people from all genders and all sexualities.
This bill in my view, is deeply discriminatory. It still allows surrogacy if the surrogate is within the family and already has one child. The real question is if one had such surrogates within the family, why would someone go looking for surrogacy clinics elsewhere?
I believe that everyone should have the right to decide what they want to do with their bodies. Swaraj seems to believe that homosexual couples going for surrogacy is against the ethos of our nation. I just want to tell her that her statement- is what is - against the ethos of our nation. I should confess that I am tempted to use the much abused word for her – "anti-national"!