In proposed tighter norms for foreign couples who come to India to commission surrogacy, the government plans to impose a minimum monetary bond to ensure financial security for the unborn child, in case he or she is abandoned later. The money will have to be declared in the name of the unborn child before any foreigner is allowed to approach an Indian to become a surrogate-mother, a senior government official said.
Under the new norms, still at drafting stage, the government also plans to impose penal action on foreigners who flout the visa norms for surrogacy. There have been instances when people came on a tourist visa and commissioned surrogacy, even though it should be done under the “medical visa” category.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently circulated a Cabinet note on the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, which intends to regulate surrogacy rules in India. The Bill has a detailed chapter on framing rules for surrogacy commissioned by foreign couples.
“To ensure financial security for the unborn child, we will be pressing for minimum cash-bond by a foreign couple which intends to come to India for surrogacy. Since, there have been several complaints of children being abandoned once they were born, this was a necessary step. We have not decided the amount yet. Any couple flouting visa norms will have to face penal action,” said a senior government official.
In 2012, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had also issued guidelines for those intending to visit India to commission surrogacy. It said, “The appropriate visa category for the foreign nationals coming to India for commissioning surrogacy will be medical visa, the foreign man and woman must be married for at least two years and the couple should enclose an application that the country recognises surrogacy and the child would be permitted into their country as a biological child of the couple.”
Though the norms for foreigners were being dealt with by the MHA separately, the new draft law would incorporate all these concerns.
The bone of contention between MHA and the Health Ministry is whether to allow single parent surrogacy. Deliberations on this are still on.
Under the UPA government, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) had proposed that the option of surrogacy be available only to married, infertile couples of Indian origin, thereby ruling out surrogacy options for foreigners, unless they are married to a person of Indian origin.
According to a 2012 study by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), around 10,000 foreign couples visit India to commission surrogacy and nearly 30 percent were either single or homosexual.
In the same year, an Australian couple left behind one of the twins born to an Indian surrogate mother because they could not afford to bring up two children.