Gurugram: For hiring a womb, India has long been a go-to destination for foreigners. Despite being worth billions, the surrogacy industry continues to remain an unregulated sector.
In August last year, the Surrogacy Bill, 2016, was introduced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in Lok Sabha that proposed a ban on commercial surrogacy in India.
According to the government, the surrogacy industry exploits impoverished women, but the stories at surrogacy homes, reveal a contrasting picture.
Thirty two kilometres away from Delhi, in a narrow lane of Sector 12 Gurugram, lies a surrogacy centre that is a temporary home to ten women.
The women, who are mostly wives of daily wage earners, are happy about providing the service but not so about the proposed ban.
24-year-old Gauri and her husband Manoj have two children of their own. Pregnant again, as surrogate this time, she said, “My husband and our families are very supportive. With an income of Rs 12,000, we could barely manage textbooks for our older son. It’s a win-win situation for both the client and me, so why stop it?”
Another surrogate Rekha, a native of Agra relocated to Gurugram when she heard surrogacy may soon be banned. An agent contacted her and explained her and her husband the contract details. They were assured an amount of Rs 10,000 a month with all medical and food expenses paid.
Her husband, a tea seller, drops their daughters at the surrogacy centre during the day. The couple is glad the centre doubles up as a crèche for their children.
Rekha said, “We could barely buy milk for them, but I am determined to send my girls to school so they grow up to become independent women. For that, if I have to become a surrogate again, I will happily do so.”
Wondering why providing the joy of motherhood has become a crime now, she said, “If I give them a child, they will give me blessings in return, what’s wrong in that?”
Dr Yugal Kishore, the owner of the surrogacy centre hires agents who are always on the lookout in migrant colonies. He charges a couple up to Rs 6 lakh for the services. He said the business, though hanging by the threads, is booming.
“There’s at least a three-fold rise in clientele and they are rushing to me to get them a surrogate at the earliest. I have had clients bringing family members who wish to be surrogates, but 50 per cent of them get cold feet at the last moment,” Mr Kishore addded.
He hinted towards a chance of the industry operating illegally should a complete ban come into effect.
A similar concern is voiced by experts. Dr Kaberi Banerjee, a fertility specialist said the protection of interests of surrogate and surrogate child could have been effectively ensured through proper framework, a ban will push the industry underground and result in illegal activities and exploitation that will go unreported.
“Fertility treatment is not a drawing room conversation among Indian families yet and often women will not seek help from someone in their family without the fear of an emotional attachment that may develop in the future,” she added.