With commercial surrogacy being legal in India and with no legal provisions available to safeguard the interests of the woman, the child, or the commissioning parents, the country has become a hub of surrogacy, reveals a report released here on Wednesday by Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research (CSR).

The study, supported by the Ministry of Women and Child Development and titled “Surrogacy Motherhood: Ethical or Commercial” was done on 100 surrogate mothers (pregnant at the time) in Mumbai and Delhi. It reveals disturbing trends in surrogacy and highlights the urgent need for legal safeguards.

The study shows that a substantial percentage of women pointed out poverty as the main reason for opting for surrogacy. Others said that it was for their children’s education. About half the surrogate respondents in Delhi and 44 per cent in Mumbai stated that they received Rs. 3 lakh to Rs 3.99 lakh for the pregnancy though each pregnancy cost Rs 40-45 lakh for the commissioning parents. Clinics also arbitrarily decided the compensation amount to be given to the surrogate mothers. They paid a little more than the amount initially agreed upon, if the surrogate was carrying twins. The payment for surrogacy also largely depended on the educational background and even skin tone of the mother, said the study.

The research suggested that commissioning parents from different parts of the world, especially from the West, were well-educated and fully employed as against the surrogate mothers here who are from humble backgrounds, particularly slums, and are less educated.

Commissioning parents often insist on male children and even terminate female foetuses without the knowledge of the surrogate mothers. This takes place because of ‘social’ reasons such as the expectation of a male child or sometimes for medical reasons.

The decision to become a surrogate mother was mainly taken by the woman but in 14 per cent of the cases in Delhi and 36 per cent of the cases in Mumbai, they were pressured to take the decision by their husbands.

Close to 50 per cent of surrogate mothers said that parting with the baby was the worst part of surrogacy. The labour period, during which they had to live away from their family members according to the arrangement, was another painful time, they said. Thirty one per cent of the respondents in Delhi and 33 per cent in Mumbai said that the arrangement had even led to loss of contact with their family and friends as they did not disclose the arrangement to their extended family fearing social stigma. Most of the surrogate mothers -65 per cent in Delhi and 56 per cent in Mumbai- stayed in shelter homes during pregnancy, as a result of this perceived stigma.

The study shows that clinics also preferred the mothers staying at shelter home instead of their respective villages as they believe that these homes are better equipped to take care of pregnancy-related issues and prevent the surrogate mother from being infected with STDs or HIV/AIDS when in physical contact with her husband.

Five per cent of surrogate mothers’ children in Delhi and 2 per cent in Mumbai said that they distanced themselves from the mother.