Parliament. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Nov 19 : As deliberation on Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 remained inconclusive in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, the House will take up the discussion on Wednesday. Members of the treasury bench are hopeful of getting the Bill cleared in the House on Wednesday.

The Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan moved the Bill in the House, saying the Bill aims to ban commercial surrogacy and allow altruistic surrogacy for Indian citizens.

"Since absence of a regulation in the country, India has become surrogacy hub where around 3,000 clinics are running illegally and 2,000 foreign babies took birth through surrogacy illegally and unethically," said Vardhan.

He said in most countries, commercial surrogacy is not prohibited, but many countries have criminalised it. The European Union has even condemned the practices of surrogacy. On altruistic surrogacy, he said it should not mean monetary business in India.

The Minister said the government presented the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 and received several recommendations from the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Later, the Bill lapsed when the Lok Sabha was dissolved.

The government then replaced the 2016 Bill with The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 and introduced it in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019. In the Rajya Sabha, the Bill has been proposed after taking note of 13 recommendations of the committee.

The Bill seeks to constitute a National Surrogacy Board, state surrogacy boards and appointment of appropriate authorities for regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy.

It permits surrogacy in five scenarios: (i) for intending couples who suffer from proven infertility; (ii) altruistic; (iii) not for commercial purposes; (iv) not for producing children for sale, prostitution or other forms of exploitation; and (v) for any condition or disease specified through regulations.

The intending couple should have a 'certificate of essentiality' and a 'certificate of eligibility' issued by the appropriate authority. The surrogate mother has to be: (i) a close relative of the intending couple; (ii) a married woman having a child of her own; (iii) 25 to 35 years old; (iv) a surrogate only once in her lifetime; and (v) a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy.

Many members requested the Chairman of the House to send it to a select committee for reconsideration of various clauses in the Bill which they believe are impractical to implement.

BJP leader Suresh Parbhu supported the legislation saying it is a contemporary issue and needs attention and regulation. He, however, made suggestions to ensure genuine couples are not adversely affected by some provisions.

Congress leader M.V. Rajeev Gowda said if the Bill is passed, then "we will be going back to the Victorian era". He raised several contentious issues and suggested that the Bill has a clause only for married couple.

He also talked about the monetary compensation. "A woman's job is not inherently to give birth, so the costs that women bear should be suitably addressed. Reproductive labour of the woman should be acknowledged and the woman should be compensated," he said, adding the government consent must be left out for abortion in surrogate pregnancy and the process should be easy.

"The current form of the Bill adds red-tapeism with complicated rules and regulations, he said.

Ram Gopal Jadhav (SP), who was the chairman of the Standing Committee to scrutiny the Bill, said that that two years ago, his panel had asked for altruistic surrogacy to be replaced with compensatory surrogacy. But nothing has been done. "Many suggestions we made were not considered and only 13 minor suggestions were included," he said, adding the present form of the Bill has many lacunae and it needs to be discussed again.

BJD leader Amar Patnaik said there are many lapses in the Bill that need to be relooked into. Similarly, JD (U) Kahkashan Perween opposed the waiting time of five years of marriage before availing of surrogacy.

CPI (M) leader K Somprasad said the Bill talks about the surrogate mother can only be a close relative of the intending couple, but there is no definition of close relatives. "Why should the couple wait for five years? Fertility of the couple can be ascertained much earlier, especially with all the scientific developments," Somprasad said.

Calling the Bill as casteist as it doesn't allow for human hybrids, DMK leader P Wilson opposes the Bill and asks for it to be sent to a select committee.

The Bill will be taken up on Wednesday for further deliberation.

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