Explained: The controversy surrounding Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan’s twins and India’s surrogacy laws

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It’s twins for Tamil superstar Nayanthara and her director husband Vignesh Shivan. And now there is a controversy surrounding them.

Four months after they tied the knot, the power couple announced on Sunday that they have become parents of twin boys. “Nayan & Me have become Amma & Appa… We are blessed with Twin Baby Boys,” Vignesh wrote on Instagram.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vignesh Shivan (@wikkiofficial)

Soon reports emerged that the babies were conceived through surrogacy. Now questions are being raised about whether Nayanthara and Vignesh followed the surrogacy procedures laid down by Indian law. The newborns have even got the attention of the Tamil Nadu government.

Under the scanner of the state health department

Asked by reporters about the possible violation of surrogacy laws by the couple, the state health minister said that the Tamil Nadu department would look into the matter.

“The surrogacy itself is subjected to a lot of debates. But, the law allows individuals to involve in surrogacy if they are above 21 years and below 36 years of age, with the approval of the family,” Health Minister Ma Subramanian said, adding that an inquiry will be conducted.

“According to norms, those aged 21 years and under the age of 36 can donate oocytes (ova or eggs). We presume this could have been done that way... director of health services will be asked to examine if it was done according to norms,” he added, according to a report by NDTV.

Changes in India’s surrogacy laws

In December 2021, Parliament passed the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Act and the Surrogacy Regulation Bill. The two laws came into force in January 2022, seeking to curb unethical practices related to sex selection and the exploitation of surrogates.

The Surrogacy Regulation Bill defines surrogacy as a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an intending couple to hand it over to them after the birth. It is prohibited for commercial purposes including for sale, prostitution or any other forms of exploitation, according to a report in The Hindu.

As per the law, once the child is born, it will be deemed to be the biological child of the couple. Abortion of such a foetus is allowed only with the surrogate mother’s consent and the authorities must adhere to the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act.

The Bill aims to prohibit commercial surrogacy and allows only altruistic surrogacy, in which no money except the medical expenses of the surrogate mother are paid for by the couple. Surrogacy where an infant is sold or bought is banned by the government.

According to the law, the surrogate mother should be at least married once and should not have her own child.

The rules for intending parents

For a couple to be eligible, they have to be married for five years. The wife should be between the age of 25 and 50 and the husband between 26 and 55. The couple should not have a living child, be it biological, adopted or a surrogate. Both the husband and wife have to be Indians.

To avail of surrogacy, the couple needs an “essential” certificate from a district medical board that proves the infertility of either partner and an order of parentage and custody of the surrogate child passed by a magistrate’s court, a report in The Hindu says.

Any woman agreeing to be a surrogate, cannot be a surrogate more than once in her life and should be certified for medical and psychological fitness. The bill further restricts the couple opting for surrogacy from abandoning the child under any circumstances after his/her birth.

The provisions of the ART Act

According to Assisted Reproductive Technology Act, ART is defined as techniques used to obtain a pregnancy by handling the sperm or egg cell outside the human body and transferring the embryo into the woman’s reproductive tract. These include – sperm donation, in-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) and gestational surrogacy (the child is not biologically related to the surrogate).

An ART clinic and bank must register under the National Registry of Banks and Clinics of India. It can screen, collect and store sperm from men aged 21 and 55 years and eggs from women aged between 23 and 35. Under the Act, the woman donor needs to be married with at least one child of her own who is at least three years old.

These procedures require the written consent of the couple and the donor.

Regulation of the laws

The National Surrogacy Board NSB and State Surrogacy Boards (SSB) enforce standards for surrogacy clinics and investigate breaches. They are also expected to regulate ART services.

Commercial surrogacy, selling of embryos and exploiting and abandoning a surrogate child are considered offences that invite up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.

Under the ART Act, the sale, purchase, or trade of embryos, exploiting the couple or donor and transfer of an embryo into a male or an animal attract a fine of Rs 5 to 10 lakh for the first time. Subsequent offences are punishable with imprisonment for eight to 12 years and a fine of Rs 10 to 20 lakh, The Hindu reports.

The Nayanthara-Vignesh case

While the Tamil Nadu health minister spoke about the age of the donors, the new surrogacy law requires a couple to be married for five years.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Vignesh Shivan (@wikkiofficial)

Nayanthara and Vignesh got married in June earlier this year after a seven-year courtship where they lived in.

As Vignesh shared pictures of him and Nayanthara kissing the feet of their newborn sons, he wrote, “All Our prayers, our ancestors’ blessings combined with all the good manifestations made, have come 2gethr in the form Of 2 blessed babies for us. Need all ur blessings for our Uyir & Ulagam. Life looks brighter & more beautiful (sic).”

However, he did not make any mention of surrogacy.

With inputs from agencies

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Explained: The controversy surrounding Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan’s twins and India’s surrogacy laws
Explained: The controversy surrounding Nayanthara and Vignesh Shivan’s twins and India’s surrogacy laws
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