A workshop was organized by a Chennai-based non-government organization (NGO) called Global Surrogate Mother Advancing Rights Trust (G-SMART) over the weekend to address issues related to surrogate motherhood.
The NGO was formed in January 2013 and has been playing an important role between surrogate mothers, intended couples and fertility clinics.
G-SMART Director V.K. Kathirvan said: "Actually we started this organisation to protect the rights of surrogate mothers, surrogate women as well as the donors but fortunately, unfortunately, we were forced to facilitate the surrogate mothers because many surrogate mothers are approaching us for facilitation because they need some legal protection as well as their family support from external agency, so that we started facilitating surrogates. Now many intended parents, who are childless couple, they are directly approaching us because that is the right way of doing surrogacy."
Often the surrogate mothers are betrayed by the brokers or middlemen who deny them the promised amount of money. The middlemen keep most of the amount with them, giving only half of the promised amount to the surrogate mothers.
It seems that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved G-SMART has emerged victorious as many surrogate mothers now approach clinics and hospitals through them.
A surrogate mother present at the workshop shared her agony. She said she had to resort to surrogacy due to shortage of money and was cheated by the broker.
"The experience of becoming a surrogate mother is a huge exploitation in the hands of the middlemen brokers who cheated on me. We only receive half of the promised amount. We have no choice, but to take it as we need money and have to cover our debts as soon as possible. Now even after becoming a surrogate mother, we continue to face the same problem as there is no proper care taken even by the hospital," she said.
G-SMART is also considering providing insurance to the surrogate mothers and take care of their children when a woman is carrying a child through surrogacy.
"They are telling to surrogate that these are the formalities you have to undergo during the treatment. These are the charges that will be paid to you on the monthly basis and after the successful treatment you will land up in this treatment. During this course of treatment if you land up in a failure of treatment, what is the expected amount that an intended or commissioned couple is going to pay. This is a very-very fundamental thing that G-SMART, as an agency approved by ICMR, is playing a vital role, preaching the intended couples and the infertility centres and the surrogates," said Dr. Lakshmanan Saravanan of the Abhijay Reproductive Care and Research Centre.
Apparently, surrogacy in India costs between 20 and 25000 dollars, while it costs between 70 and 80,000 dollars abroad, thus, making India a hub for commercial surrogacy.
It is the perfect promotion for India's booming surrogacy industry that sees thousands of infertile couples, many from overseas, hiring the wombs of local women to carry their embryos through to birth.
But a debate over whether the unregulated industry exploits poor women prompted authorities to draft a law that could make it tougher for foreigners seeking babies made in India.
India opened up to commercial surrogacy in 2002. It is among just a handful of countries - including Georgia, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine - and a few U.S. states where women can be paid to carry another's genetic child through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.
The low-cost technology, skilled doctors, scant bureaucracy and a plentiful supply of surrogates have made India a preferred destination for fertility tourism, attracting nationals from Britain, the United States, Australia and Japan, to name a few.
There are no official figures on how large the fertility industry is in India. A U.N.-backed study in July 2012 estimated the surrogacy business at more than $400 million a year, with over 3,000 fertility clinics across India.
India's surrogacy industry is vilified by women's rights groups who say fertility clinics are nothing more than "baby factories" for the rich. In the absence of regulation, they say many poor and uneducated women are lured by agents, hired by clinics, into signing contracts they do not fully understand.
A recent government-funded study of 100 surrogate mothers in Delhi and Mumbai found there was "no fixed rule" related to compensation and no insurance for post-delivery healthcare. It cited cases where surrogates were implanted with embryos multiple times to raise the chances of success.
A move to introduce a law - the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Bill (ART) - to protect surrogates, the children and the commissioning parents is long overdue.
Revised visa requirements have already resulted in foreign same-sex couples and individuals being prohibited from surrogacy in India. The ART bill, expected to come before parliament, will tighten things further.
Under the current draft, all fertility clinics must be registered and monitored by a regulatory authority. Surrogates must be between 21 and 35 years old, they will be provided with insurance and notarised contracts must be signed between the women and the commissioning parents. (ANI)