May 25, 2024

Sociologist opposes ban on Indian commercial surrogacy

It’s too late to change the system.

Dr Nayna Patel (centre) and her “house of surrogates”, in Gujarat   

There is always a flip side to an argument, even if you are talking about “baby farms” of surrogate mothers in India. Sharmila Rudrappa, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, has written a book, Discounted Life: The Price of Global Surrogacy in India,  about the experience of surrogate mothers in Bangalore. In an interview with The Times of India, she criticised moves to decommercialise surrogacy.

This ban is certainly going to dent the earnings of surrogate mothers, but it’s not going to be that large. But what’s worse is the Centre is looking to ban commercial surrogacy altogether. It wants to institute only altruistic surrogacy , where no money will be exchanged. Look, the cat is out of the bag -the businesses are set, doctors have invested in equipment, networks are established.

To think that you can turn the clock back and go back to altruistic surrogacy is downright ridiculous. The Centre has no interest in regulating surrogacy, and helping surrogate mothers achieve a life of dignity. Now, they are expected to gift their labour and hardship. There may be no contracts. Rich families can coerce or compel their poorer relatives, or maids to engage in “altruistic” surrogacy for them. Under these conditions, exploitation of surrogate mothers will deepen. 

She does not believe that women are necessarily exploited:

The women I met know that surrogacy is risky but still pursue surrogacy because life has become expensive in Bengaluru. None of the women I met was from rural areas. They were all Bengaluru residents, or came from the outskirts. And none of them was desperately poor; they came from multi-income families. They believed that the wages from surrogacy could pull them out of economic uncertainty . 

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