The Surrogacy Regulation Bill, 2019, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday does well to outlaw commercial surrogacy by restricting the services for altruistic purposes. The ban on the business transaction seeks to address the malpractice adopted by certain middlemen who have made a trade of a practice that is full of highly ethical and moral issues of procreation and parenting. They are known to pocket an unfair percentage of money by taking advantage of needy childless couples as well as poor surrogates who use their bodies for an income. With infertility on the rise, the abiding natural penchant for couples to beget a baby of their own and abounding poverty, the industry is pegged at a booming Rs 2, 670 crore a year.
However, the Bill leaves much to be desired. It allows only certain specific couples to engage a close relative (to be defined later) as a surrogate mother. They include married couples with infertility of five years after wedding; those who have a child with a fatal illness or no surviving child; those who have only a physically or mentally challenged child. The LGBT community, single men and women and live-in partners have been singled out from enjoying parenthood through surrogacy. This exclusive provision not only smacks of a mindset that has failed to keep pace with the rapidly evolving socio-economic times, but is also contrarian to such progressive steps as the Supreme Court decriminalising gay sex in September 2018.
Plus, the silence of the Bill on the status of the children already born to proud parents of these categories — kids of celebrities, for example — puts a question mark on their future. A caring view of the issue, rather than regulatory, is needed when it comes to the emotive parent-child relationship.