New laws to rein in 'womb business'31 Oct 2007, 0057 hrs IST,Mahendra Kumar Singh,TNN
DELHI: Foreigners lining up to rent a womb in India will soon have to face legal regulations being planned by the ministry of women and child development (WCD). Surrogacy, an area unregulated till now, meant that childless couples from abroad as well as in the country could get away with renting a womb at terms often to the disadvantage of a needy women who stood the chance of being exploited. Women and child development minister Renuka Chaudhary said that the ministry was considering a law to regulate the business of surrogate motherhood and sperm banks on the lines of similar laws in other countries. Women's organisations have long been demanding a law on surrogate motherhood and hiring of wombs in India. "The sensitive issue of surrogacy in the absence of laws or regulations has become a free playing field for unscrupulous intermediaries who lure and push uneducated and poor women into surrogate motherhood," a WCD ministry official said, emphasising the need for the law. It is argued that there was every possibility of misuse of children born out of surrogacy for terrorism, prostitution or unethical genetic engineering research as the foreigners who pay for the child would not have any emotional bonding with the kid. India is emerging as a major destination for surrogacy as childless couples from US and Europe are lured by the prospect of a surrogate child for around Rs 100,000 ($2,250) to Rs 225,000 ($5,060) each pregnancy compared with some $40,000 or even more in the US. Many say the country can become a centre of "reproductive tourism". There is no law in India surrounding surrogacy. However, the Indian Council of Medical Reseach (ICMR) has framed national guidelines in 2005 to regulate surrogacy. The clinics that provide ART facilities take recourse to the guidelines that state that the surrogate mother has to sign a contract with the childless couple. But even then, it is not clear whether such a contract has any legal sanctity. "The rights of the surrogate mother over a baby she carries and issues like if mother dies during pregnancy remains unclear," said an official. And, the real problem arises after the birth of the baby. In the absence of any clear laws on the issue, foreigners are unable to get legal assistance when it comes to taking their child back to their home country.