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Starting a family is one of the most valuable moments in a person's life. While some become parents through natural means without any complications, some take years to have a baby of their own. There are still a few, who are forever incapable of having a baby naturally. This is where surrogacy comes into picture.

Surrogacy is like a contract wherein a woman, who is not pregnant, agrees to bear a child for another couple, who will parent the child. Surrogacy affords many infertile and often distressed couples the possibility of having a child of their own. It has delivered millions of chances to single parents, same-sex couples and married couples with fertility issues to make their parenthood dream a reality.

However, with the development of medical technology and legalization of commercial surrogacy, India became one of the most sought after destination in surrogacy-related fertility tourism. The sole reason behind this is the relative low cost as compared to other nations and the favourable legal environment for the same. Today, India has a thriving surrogacy market with an estimated valuation of over 2 billion USD.

It is after the case of Jan Balaz vs. Anand Municipality and Ors, when the government realized that the growing number of western couples seeking surrogates in India has resulted in exploitation of women through global inequalities. The charge of exploitation finds the use of bodies or ‘renting of wombs' of poor women in exchange for money disturbing and dehumanising. In commercial surrogacy, it is often argued, that women are viewed primarily as an instrument of childbearing, and their wombs treated as commodities; all of which has implications for the societal view of women, and the emotional relationship between mother and child.

In lieu of the same the government prepared a strict legal mandate and it placed the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2013 before the Parliament in order to tackle this wretched exploitation. In August 2016, the new Surrogacy Bill was approved by the cabinet, which has since then become a major controversial issue.

The new Bill of 2016 has brought in a number of changes in order to make surrogacy in India a much more regulated and standardized practice.

10 major changes the bill 2016 proposes are:

  • Ban on commercial surrogacy.
  • Restrictions on international surrogacy.
  • Indian couples with proven infertility in one, are allowed to seek help of surrogate mothers.
  • No payments will be made to surrogate mothers except payment of medical bill and such other bills.
  • Women acting as surrogates can do so only once.
  • Couples have to be married for at least five years before adopting surrogacy. Moreover, women have to be between 23-50 years old and men have to be 26-55 years old.
  • No single, live-in couples or homosexual couples can avail the service.
  • Only a close relative can act as a surrogate mother.
  • The bill provides legal help to surrogate mothers to fight for their rights.
  • Establishment of a National Surrogacy Board which will be run by the Health Ministry, Surrogacy Boards of States and Union Territories to keep a strict check on all the surrogacy cases done in fertility hospitals and clinics

The new provisions introduced by the Bill establish a regulatory framework for more favourable surrogacy practices in India. Through these provisions, the possibility of exploitation of surrogate women and protection of interests of surrogates and surrogate child has been effectively ensured to some extent.

Although, a lot more needs to be done in this regard and the Bill has  made the whole process more cumbersome but this does not completely negate the necessity of the Bill to curb the adverse consequences of unregulated surrogacy practices.

"Bills of such nature needs time and preponderance, to weigh both side's pros and cons carefully, for a flawed bill given clearance can have negative repercussions on the society."

We cannot deny that the bill has created turmoil for some couples who thought surrogacy was their only ray of hope to attain parenthood but let's not forget that adoption is also a great option. There are thousands of children who are desperate to have the unconditional love and affection of a family. Thus, adoption is another alternative through which an aching couple and a yearning child can find solace in each other. 

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