Over to the elders
Mains Paper 3: Governance
Prelims level: Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill
Mains level: Important highlights and significance of this bill
- The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on
Wednesday, two years after it was introduced in Parliament’s lower House.
- The bill bars commercial surrogacy and allows only close relatives
to act as surrogates to infertile couples for “altruistic” reasons.
- The bill sticks to its original principles despite the criticisms
by scholars, women’s rights groups as well as the Union Ministry of Health
and Family Welfare’s Parliamentary Standing Committee.
- The discussion on the Bill in the Lok Sabha, just over an hour
long, did scant justice to the issues that were raised in the two years
after it was tabled.
Major highlights of this bill
- Its advocates raise bioethical concerns about treating a woman’s
body as a commodity. In August last year, a Parliamentary Standing Committee
responded to these concerns.
- It agreed with the arguments of the Bill’s proponents to an
extent, but refused to go along with their “moralistic” reasoning.
- Keeping the surrogacy transaction within the family would, in a
patriarchal set-up, reinforce the idea that a woman’s body is not her own,
the committee contended.
- “In Indian marital homes, the decision-making power rarely rests
with women and not so privileged or financially weak relatives can be
coerced into becoming surrogate mothers,” it noted.
- Altruistic surrogacy, it observed, is tantamount to exploitation:
“The commissioning couple gets a child, and doctors, lawyers and hospitals
- However, the surrogate mothers are expected to practise altruism
without a single penny”.
- It recommended that surrogate mothers be paid for their services
and that the process be called “compensated surrogacy”.
- The committee also made a strong case for broad-basing the
eligibility criteria by including widows and divorcees.
- It criticised the government for restricting surrogacy to married
couples when the Supreme Court has given legal sanctity to live-in
- The need to broad-base the eligibility criteria should, in fact,
have acquired momentum after the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality.
- However, the Bill, passed by Lok Sabha on Wednesday, scarcely
bears any imprint of this seminal verdict.
- It is true that homosexual marriages are still not recognised in
India, but by prohibiting same-sex couples from commissioning surrogates,
the bill continues to speak the discriminatory language of Section 377.
- In Lok Sabha, some members, did ask the government to expand the
Bill’s scope. But a meaningful discussion on the issue proved elusive.
- The Rajya Sabha would do well to debate these matters threadbare
when the Bill comes before it.
Q.1) The recent proposed ban on Commercial Surrogacy and promotion of
“adoption rights” has been at the core of government agenda. Legislation with
respect to the individual rights of “Adoption and Succession” comes under the
a) State List in the Seventh Schedule
b) Union List in the Seventh Schedule
c) Concurrent List in the Seventh Schedule
d) Residuary List
Q.1) What is Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill? What are its important and
significance of this bill?