Mansukh Mandaviya to introduce Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 in Rajya Sabha: All you need to know about the legislation

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya is scheduled to move 'The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020' in Rajya ...

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya is scheduled to move 'The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020' in Rajya Sabha today. The Bill seeks to constitute the National Surrogacy Board, State Surrogacy Boards and appointment of appropriate authorities for regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy, as passed by Lok Sabha.

Here's a look at what this legislation proposes.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020

The Bill was first introduced by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr Harsh Vardhan in Lok Sabha on 15 July 2019 and defined surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an intending couple with the intention to hand over the child after the birth to the intending couple.

One of the most important features of the Bill is to prohibit commercial surrogacy but allow altruistic surrogacy. Altruistic surrogacy involves no monetary compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical expenses and insurance coverage during the pregnancy.

The Bill proposes that only infertile Indian married couples between the ages of 23-50 for women, and 26-55 for men would be considered for surrogacy. It also states that no woman can act as a surrogate mother more than once in her lifetime.

The bill also provides for the constitution of surrogacy boards at national and state levels, as well as that the intending couples should not abandon such a child under any condition.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020 incorporates all recommendations made by a Rajya Sabha select committee, which studied an earlier version of the draft legislation.

One of the major changes suggested by the 23-member select committee of Rajya Sabha to the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, also included deleting the definition of 'infertility' as the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse on the ground that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.

The legislation also has increased the proposed insurance cover for a surrogate mother from 16 months to 36 months.

Furthermore, it makes commercial surrogacy, and abandoning or disowning a surrogate child punishable by imprisonment up to 10 years and a fine up to Rs 10 lakh.

Importance for such a bill

The rise for such a bill came amid the news of low-cost fertility clinics mushrooming all over and exploiting poor women for this service.

Several reports emerged of women, who were choosing to become surrogates, being subjected to exploitation, poor living conditions, and unethical treatment. In fact, at one point India became a major surrogacy hub with its cheap medical technology, skilled doctors, and a steady supply of local surrogates.

It is amid such circumstances that the government proposed to ban commercial surrogacy — a practice banned in most Western countries. The only European countries where surrogacy is legal are Russia and Ukraine.

Additionally, women were used again and again in the surrogacy process, resulting in a decline in health as they effectively became "baby-making machines" year after year.

Criticism of the legislation

However, the law isn’t without criticism. Some argue that the law takes away from the right of women to make their own reproductive choices and the right of persons to parenthood.

As one wrote in The Wire, "I see the sweeping ban as something much more regressive: It essentially strips women of autonomy over our own bodies and, in the process, violates our basic civil and fundamental rights."

Also, it doesn't consider cases where women might not want to go through pregnancy due to career-related commitments as in the case of a sportswoman.

Critics argue if such a woman should have to compromise? Should they give up their dreams of their career or their dream of being a mother?

With inputs from agencies

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India World News: Mansukh Mandaviya to introduce Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 in Rajya Sabha: All you need to know about the legislation
Mansukh Mandaviya to introduce Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2020 in Rajya Sabha: All you need to know about the legislation
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