Renting the Womb- Commercial Surrogacy, Exploitation and India’s Legal Oversight
With the advent of assisted reproductive technologies and in-vitro fertilization, a multi-billion-dollar industry driven by demand was created where female bodies were used as factories to deliver quick products, in form of babies, unrelated to the humanness of it all. In third-world countries like India, the phenomenon was considered to be more exploitative due to the prevalence of surrogacy brokers who lured marginalized women with false promises of jobs and easy money and where lack of informed consent, poverty, and ignorance, worked as catalysts. Since 2002 when India legalized commercial surrogacy, it made way for a new form of economic well-being for many who preferred to become surrogates to tide over their economic conditions; yet, dark stories of human abuse contributing to near-death situations of surrogate mothers, neonatal and prenatal mortalities, and other human rights violations were revealed. In the absence of regulatory provisions, exploitations in the garb of surrogacy practices came to the fore. Multiple cases were reported where poor women were trafficked, traded, enslaved, raped, and forcefully made to conceive babies. The introduction of the ART Bill, 2014 and Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill of 2019 sought to ban the practice of commercial surrogacy. The article highlights the ethical and legal controversies that surround commercial gestational surrogacy and situates the discussion within the milieu of labor exploitation, trafficking, and other human rights abuses. Alongside, it talks about India’s efforts to combat the menace based on international developments. The authors have undertaken a qualitative analytical approach to critically evaluate the issues concerning commercial surrogacy and its legal position. In conclusion, the authors indicate that though the Indian legislative attempts to curb the exploitative aspects of commercial surrogacy are well intended, it remains largely ineffective, especially in the context of human rights priorities of women and children.
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