While the draft bill already bars foreigners, the version that will finally be tabled in Parliament will include Non-Resident Indians and PIOs as well. This was said by home ministry officials today following a consultation with the National Commission of Women.
Assisted reproductive technology - which includes in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and surrogacy -- is an unregulated sector that brings in Rs 25 billion a year, much of it from fertility tourism. For at least four years, the government has not managed to bring in a law to regulate the growing sector.
The proposed law is another attempt at safeguarding the interests of surrogate mothers and their children from exploitation.
Surrogacy, where another woman carries the child after an in-vitro fertilization process, draws the most foreigners and NRIs since the process is not allowed everywhere abroad.
But the Indian law leaves room for commercialisation of the process, in which women from poor families are hired to carry the baby. For the parents living abroad, the process -- commonly referred to as renting a womb -- turns out to be financially viable.
"It was felt that we do not want to be the commercial hub for surrogacy in the world," said Lalitha Kumaramangalam, the chief of National Commission of Women. "The increasing amount of unregulated surrogacy going on in India is also becoming one of the factors for increased trafficking."
"Surrogacy is increasingly becoming a contract between the haves and the have-nots," said Ms Kumaramangalam. "There are also multiple complex questions regarding citizenship of children, like in the case of the Israeli couple in 2010, or the case of the Australian couple, who took the child who was 'normal' but left behind the differently-abled child."
The Commission is hopeful that the bill can be introduced in Parliament early next year. It is also keen on ensuring that not just married women, but single, unmarried and divorced women will be included in the broader definition of who can be a surrogate.
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