Beautiful and fair — words traditionally synonymous with brides — are being used for renting a womb. For, not only are “healthy, beautiful, fair and higher caste or Brahmin’’ surrogates in great demand, they also receive good payment in cash and kind from the commissioning parents after delivery.
Doctors and agents have confirmed — in a study by Sama, a Delhi-based resource group working on women’s and health issues — that there were preferred criteria set by the commissioning parents, such as ‘higher caste,’ Brahmins and a particular religion, often directed by their own identity. Commissioning parents shower gifts on surrogate mothers for producing healthy and good-looking babies.
Recruitment of surrogates is largely carried out by local surrogacy agents or corporate surrogacy consultants. In some situations, the women approached the clinics and fertility centre directly, following information from acquaintances and neighbours.
“Though the unregulated surrogacy industry in India is booming, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, simultaneous civil society response to the practice. As such, the practice of commercial surrogacy in India raises several concerns, requiring a significant gap to be filled in the advocacy for the health and rights of women who choose to be surrogates and egg donors,’’ remark N. Sarojini and Tarang Mahajan of Sama. In the Indian context, want of regulation, comparatively lower cost with regard to many of the developed countries that allow surrogacy, less waiting time, possibility of close monitoring of surrogates by the commissioning couples, availability of a large pool of women willing to be surrogates, and a good medical infrastructure have created a conducive environment for the expansion of the industry, the study says.
The study was conducted in Delhi and Punjab between December 2011 and April 2012. It found that surrogates had low levels of education, and almost all had taken up low-paying informal, casual work.
The information given to surrogates at the time of making the decision to become surrogates was geared towards emphasising that no sexual relations were involved in the process of conception, the altruistic appeal of providing someone with the ‘greatest gift’ and that the sum of money paid would be helpful for them. “The surrogates weren’t given information regarding the various procedures conducted in the course of treatment. No consent was taken regarding decisions such as multiple embryo transfer, fetal reduction, caesarean section delivery and the surrogates were simply informed that they would have to undergo these procedures. Additionally, no information regarding possible effects on health or risks was provided,” Ms. Sarojini said.
The necessity for the course the procedure takes is questionable, given that many technologies are selected, guided by the concern to secure a healthy child.