An Israeli gay couple could be among the first beneficiaries of Mumbai's surrogacy programme. The duo recently fathered twins at a city hospital.
In India homosexual partners or spouses are often frowned upon. Yet they are supported by a clause in the list of guidelines drawn up by the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research). It recommends that "single unmarried women or a lesbian couple or a gay couple" should be permitted to use artificial reproductive techniques (ARTs) to have children.
Yet the progressive guidelines are still hard on foreigners. Doctors point out that ARTs for medical tourists still remain a grey territory ,legally.
Hence only an sympathetic doctor can help them. Israeli couple Richard and Peter (names changed) had chanced upon a website of an Indian infertility specialist. There, Peter's sperm was fused with a donor's eggs and implanted in a surrogate mother .She delivered the twins at Hiranandani Hospital on September 17.
While the couple has requested anonymity, infertility specialist Gautam Allahabadia, who conducted the procedure says he hopes more people would come forward for such assisted reproduction.
"I have been corresponding with them since February. They are the first gay couple who have come to us," he says proudly.
As more same sex couples come knocking, Indian doctors foresee several hurdles to a full-fledged surrogacy programme.
"A number of overseas lesbian and gay couples have approached us, but we haven't encouraged such procedures as yet," says IVF specialist at Lilavati Hospital , Hrishikesh Pai. He points out that while the technique would not be any different from that for heterosexual couples, he is hesitant about the social implications related to bringing up children once they returned to their home country.
"What if the birth mother claims her right on the child?" asks infertility specialist Aniruddha Malpani .This doctor believes the consent forms signed at the time of such procedures might not hold in a court of law.
Meanwhile IVF specialist Dr Indira Hinduja feels that as there is no follow-up with foreign couples, it is difficult to ascertain their background . She would be hesitant about encouraging same-sex couples, she says.
New parents Richard and Peter have flown back safely with their healthy newborns.
"As long as the surrogate and the couple know what they're doing it's fine," says Dr Malpani who suggests that an independent body, having experts from different walks of life—sociologists, doctors, judges—be set up to review such unusual requests.