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India must enact strict laws to monitor surrogacy, say experts

London: India should enact a strict surrogacy monitoring law as the business of providing "wombs on rent" in the country has catapulted it to a whopping trade valued at Rs 25,000 crore, two leading Indian advocates have said here.

"Recent instances of surrogate children from Germany, Japan and Israel born in India and leaving upon court intervention should well make legislators think of enacting a strict surrogacy monitoring law," Chandigarh-based Supreme Court advocates Anil Malhotra and Ranjit Malhotra said.

"The Indian government in its administrative wisdom has stepped in at a time when the regulatory law is nowhere near the horizon," they said while presenting a joint paper on New Medical Visa Laws to Regulate Surrogacy at the 2nd International Family Law and Practice Conference 2013 at the London Metropolitan University.

Ranjit Malhotra said, "Despite the legal, moral and social complexities that shroud surrogacy, there is nothing stopping people from exploring the possibility of becoming a parent. Women who may choose to 'rent' their womb for a surrogate pregnancy are shaking off their inhibition and fear of social ostracism to bring joy to childless couples."

Representational Image. Reuters

Representational Image. Reuters

He said, "The unregulated reproductive tourism industry 'procreating' surrogacy is burgeoning, with India being the first country proposing to legalise commercial surrogacy.

"The Indian entrepreneurial industry spirit has catapulted the business of providing 'wombs on rent' to a
whopping trade valued at Rs 25,000 crore."

He pointed out that "free availability of a large pool of women willing to be surrogates, a good medical infrastructure, fractional costs, less waiting time, close monitoring of surrogate mothers by over two lakh in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) clinics and no laws to restrict single, gay or unmarried couples from becoming parents by surrogacy, has taken this unethical trade in India to spiralling heights."

However, soon the business of surrogacy might plummet, he said citing new Indian visa regulations, under which all foreigners visiting India for commissioning surrogacy will be required to apply for medical visas and cannot avail of simple tourist visas for surrogacy purposes.

Ranjit Malhotra said India accepts commercial surrogacy and no law declares it illegal.

"However, by disallowing visas to foreigners whose countries prohibit surrogacy, the new medical visa regulations will ensure that we harmonise and fall in tandem with those nations whose overseas citizens wish to wrongfully patronise surrogacy in India," he said.

In a separate paper on "Abduction - To Return or Not to Return" Anil Malhotra said, "Till India does not become a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the inter-parental child removal can not be solved."

PTI