The Indian IVF bill may throw a spanner in the plans of an increasing number of male couples from Australia and other Western countries who are hiring surrogates in India to bear children.
R.S. Sharma, the secretary of the committee writing a bill to govern assisted reproductive technology (ART), told the Sydney Morning Herald that unless gay and lesbian relationships are legalised in India, gay couples would be excluded from hiring surrogates.
Delhi's High Court recently overturned a 150-year-old section of the country's penal code that outlawed ''carnal intercourse against the order of nature''.
However, gay activists warn this ruling, which in effect decriminalised sodomy, does not legalise gay relationships, leaving the status of such relationships unclear.
"If our government does not permit gay relationships, then it certainly will not be permitted for foreign gay couples to come to this country and have a [surrogacy] agreement," said Dr Sharma, who is the deputy director-general of the reproductive health and nutrition division at the India Council of Medical Research.
The paper quoted Allen-Drury, a resident of Australia's Blue Mountains area, as saying that changes to India's laws would be a great disappointment, if passed.
The draft bill could make it difficult for all Australian couples to use Indian surrogates.
One stumbling block would be a requirement that foreign countries guarantee they will accept the surrogate child as a citizen - before a surrogacy could begin.
Dr Sharma said foreign couples would have to obtain a document from their embassy or foreign ministry pledging the surrogate child citizenship of their country. "Only then will they be entitled to sign an agreement with a surrogate or an ART clinic," he said.
''Under the Australian Citizenship Act, there are no guarantees,'' a spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said on Friday.