THE LOK Sabha on Wednesday passed a Bill that prohibits commercial surrogacy. Terming the legislation as a historic step, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said it was drafted “keeping the Indian ethos in mind and to stop India from becoming a hub of commercial surrogacy”.
The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill allows only married couples who can’t conceive to opt for surrogacy. Moreover, the surrogate mother must be a “close relative”. The couple as well as the surrogate mother must get eligibility certificates from the appropriate authority.
While the Bill was passed amid noisy protests by AIADMK, Congress and TDP MPs over separate issues, a few MPs, including some from the Opposition, took part in the discussion.
Supporting the Bill, TMC’s Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and NCP’s Supriya Sule asked the government to expand the scope to single mothers, NRI couples, same-sex couples and transgender persons. But Nadda and BJP’s Nishikant Dubey maintained that it should be limited to families as per the current definition.
“There is no mention of same-sex couples in the Bill. What if two men want to have a baby and they need a surrogate mother. If we want to do justice to the recently passed Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, this Bill has to expand its scope,” said Dastidar.
Agreeing with her, Sule said the Bill was good but not modern enough. “What about single parents? If we can allow single parents to adopt children, why can’t they opt for surrogacy,” she said.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said the surrogacy industry was thriving due to a regulatory gap. He asked the government to define who could qualify as close relatives.
The RSP’s N K Premachandran, JD(U)’s Kaushalendra Kumar, RJD’s Jay Prakash Narayan and TRS’s B N Goud also supported the Bill.
Replying to the debate, Nadda said: “The issue for which this Bill has come is, first of all, to see that commercial surrogacy does not take place. All sections of society, NGOs and civil societies have said that commercial surrogacy should go. But, at the same time, the intention is to save the family,” he said.
He said the Bill was also drafted to end the exploitation of surrogate mothers. Only a defined mother and family can avail of surrogacy, and it won’t be permitted for live-in partners or single parents, he said.
Sule took objection to his statement that a husband and wife make a family, saying that it would be unfair for single parents who had lost their partners. “There are many families where either the mother or father or the parents have died. So, I humbly request you not to say that a family should be complete or it should be husband and wife,” she said.
“But at this point of time, we are talking about the family. There are other methods also of adoption and other ways where a person… can have a child. So that would be taken care of,” replied Nadda. He said the rules and regulations of the law will define close relatives. The Bill also has penal provision for misuse of surrogacy.