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The surrogate mother

With more and more celebrities from the Indian Bollywood industry approaching surrogate mothers to bear a baby, the demand for surrogacy is rising. However, there are hardly any laws to protect the well-being of surrogate mothers. Women Talk Online blogger Debarati Mukherjee looks into the issue.

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is a process, where the egg from the mother is injected with the father’s sperms artificially in a test tube. Finally the ovum gets injected into the body of a surrogate mother, the woman who lends her womb where the baby will develop over a period of nine months.

This amazing technology has made several couples happy, particularly same-sex couples, but when everyone congratulates the biological parents of the child, no one remembers the pain, trauma and the pangs that the surrogate mother faces all through her nine months of pregnancy.

According to a recent research done by the Center for Social Research, surrogate mothers are paid one to two percent of what the commissioning parents pay for the baby. 46 percent of respondents in New Delhi and 44 percent in Mumbai said they received three to four lakh rupees, around 2000 dollars, for taking up the role of a surrogate mother. Only 26 percent in Delhi admitted to having earned above  four lakh rupees.

No attaching sentiments is the rule

Minati Santra (name changed on request) is a 28-year-old surrogate mother, attached to one of Delhi’s surrogacy clinics. Minati has been working as a surrogate mother for the last five years.

She says, “ I give birth to a baby almost every year. Last year I had twins in my womb. I share a three-bedroom apartment with some of my peer surrogates. We are not allowed to meet any outsider without permission. There is no room for us to lead our normal life, no sex for us, no staying with your husband. We are only allowed to keep one of our own children with us during the nine months. There is a CCTV camera that keeps a watch on us. At times it feels like am inside a jail for some wrong reasons. But at the end of that sterile period, I get awarded with my money. When I first tried surrogacy, I felt like I was helping a couple. But the doctors and nurses of the clinic has made me sign some papers which states that I can never claim any right of attachment with the baby that grow in my womb. Now I just carry the baby in my womb, I hardly feel anything for him/her.”

For Sunanda (name changed on request) the story is a little different. She joined the surrogacy bandwagon to support her family after the death of her husband. She has two children of her own and is 29 years old. “It was my first attempt at surrogacy and by mistake in my eighth month I tripped while trying to prevent my own three-year-old boy from falling down. Doctors tried saving the baby inside me, but the baby could not survive and for that I had to pay a heavy price.

I kept away from my children for the next five months, paid off all the bills that the commissioning parents had spent on me.”

Lack of morals

Surrogacy was legalized in India in 2002. Business has grown since then and India has become a hub for parents looking to have a baby. The technology is open to all who can spend money to get a child. The study conducted by the Center for Research states that nearly 74 percent of surrogate mothers interviewed in Delhi and Mumbai received information from agents involved in the business. So we can clearly see that it is not only the parents- their eggs and sperms, the technology, the doctor and the surrogate mother that is involved in this process- but also touts and middlemen who make money in between. It is all the money game that plays and no morals attached.

Despite surrogacy being an established business in India, there are hardly any laws to protect the mother who is bearing the child. Researchers from the Center for Social Research claim that many surrogate mothers are not even offered proper treatment after they face a miscarriage or any health problems. Since most surrogate mothers are from families living below the poverty line, they hardly have any legal rights which could help them in times of need.

Author: Debarati Mukherjee

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


09.10.2013 | 13:03