Murky cases, happy endings

DELVING INTO THE SUBJECT Gita Aravamudan. Photo: K. Gopinathan

DELVING INTO THE SUBJECT Gita Aravamudan. Photo: K. Gopinathan  


Gita Aravamudan came across both when researching her book, Baby Makers — the Story of Indian Surrogacy

Surrogacy- the word paints a dismal picture of legal battles and opportunistic clinics. There have been many controversial cases in the multi-million dollar surrogacy industry mainly due to the lack of clear guidelines and regulations. In her book, Baby Makers — the Story of Indian Surrogacy, Gita Aravamudan throws light on hitherto unexplored aspects, ranging from health to ethical issues prevailing in this growing industry. Gita, who has been writing on gender issues for decades and also authored two non-fiction books, Unbound- Women@Work and Disappearing Daughters, says, “I decided to write on surrogacy because the issue of hiring wombs has always intrigued me as a feminist, a writer and also as a mother. I began to delve into the subject in greater depth only after I realized that within a very short span of time surrogacy in India had ballooned into a gigantic money-spinning industry.”

India, along with Thailand has established itself as the commercial hub of the surrogacy industry. Couples from all over the world come to India not just for the affordable cost, but because it’s one of the few countries where commercial surrogacy is legal. Besides, in India, surrogates have to sign a contract giving up all rights to the baby after birth, a reassuring factor for the parents.

For her book, Gita travelled to many cities across India. She visited clinics, interacted with doctors, service providers, the intending parents, surrogates and also parents who previously had babies through surrogacy. “Apart from this I did a lot of reading to understand the history, the ethics, the legal and medical issues, the science and so on. All this took me about two years.”

She discovered that surrogacy also abounds with cheerful stories. Employing the tools of narrative journalism, Gita describes the journey of childless couples who find solace in surrogacy. “The problem comes when people try to subvert the system and become exploitative. I’ve come across many murky cases but also many happy endings. I've met parents as well as surrogates who were so happy with the outcome that they went through the process a second time as well.”

The surrogate lives in ‘homes’ where they are well looked after and given a monthly maintenance in addition to the final amount due after the delivery. The surrogates come from impoverished families who rent out their womb in exchange for money. Isn’t this an exploitation of their need for money? “Of course it is,” says Gita. “But do we not exploit this every day? We run our households using women who are willing to do the tasks we do not want to do ourselves and they do it not because they love what they are doing but because they need the money.”

There are also stories of dubious clinics which take advantage of the desperation and ignorance of both parents and surrogates. One middle-aged Indian couple was manipulated into paying the entire amount upfront. Another surrogate donated her eggs frequently, ignorant that there should be a gap of six months between the donations. With the repeated treatment of fertility hormones to stimulate the production of eggs, she became weak and developed several health issues. Despite these issues, surrogacy continues to flourish. Gita says, “Because finally it boils down to this: there are families which desperately want genetically-related babies of their own and there are families which desperately need money to survive. Surrogacy definitely provides a very benign solution to both these.”

Baby Makers — The Story of Indian Surrogacy will be launched on August 23 at Oxford Book Store in Leela Palace Hotel, Bangalore.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:55:43 PM |

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