Stakeholders voice concern over unregulated multimillion-dollar industry

The Centre will set up an expert committee for wider consultations on the draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, 2010. The panel will deliberate on and address “grave and critical” concerns raised by stakeholders.

The decision was taken after the Planning Commission recommended substantive changes in the law and advised the Indian Council of Medical Research against pushing the draft Bill until after consultations were satisfactorily concluded.

The Commission will coordinate the process of forming and facilitating the committee towards developing an efficient regulatory framework and law.

At a meeting convened by the Commission here earlier this week, stakeholders made a pitched demand for setting up the expert committee, according to Sama, a non-governmental organisation working on women’s health.

The NGO was invited by the Commission as part of its Civil Society Window initiative to present its views on commercial surrogacy. The meeting, chaired by Commission member Syeda Hameed, was attended by representatives from the Commission, the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare and Law and Justice, the ICMR, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Office of the Registrar General of India.

The discussion flagged concerns over the unregulated multimillion-dollar industry, unethical practices, especially lack of protection of surrogate women’s health and rights, sex selection, lack of employment opportunities, health and rights of children born through surrogacy and issues of their citizenship.

In to the presence of R.S. Sharma (member-secretary Drafting Committee of the Draft ART Bills 2008 and 2010), members raised “short-sightedness” of some of the provisions, lack of transparency, consultative processes involving domain experts including organisations in the drafting of the Bill, and lack of clarity on nodal authority.

The ART Bill has been hanging fire since 2008 when the first draft was prepared. It was revised in 2010 but is yet to get Law Ministry approval, after which it will go to the Cabinet for clearance.