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Women's rights being violated in India's surrogacy capital

New Delhi, March 2,2012, (IANS) : 21:53 IST
A study by the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research (CSR) has pointed to a grave violation of the women's rights at India's surrogacy hub, Anand in Gujarat.

"All surrogate mothers in Anand belonged to male-headed households. This fact to a great extent reveals that a woman becomes a surrogate mother with her husband‘s approval in order to support the family income," the study by CSR in Surat, Jamnagar and Anand said.

The study, released Friday, was conducted among 100 surrogate mothers and 50 commissioning parents who had opted for in vitro-fertilisation (IVF).

IVF, considered a form of assisted reproductive technique, is used to conceive the child outside the woman's body. The eggs and sperms are placed together under controlled conditions for fertilisation, after which the resulting embryos are placed back in the woman's uterus to initiate pregnancy.

"In Anand, 53.33 percent surrogate mothers fell in the 25-30 years age group and 37.14 percent were in 31-35 years age group. Nearly 51.7 percent surrogate mothers in Anand were illiterate, which is an important observation as it affects their ability to be involved in gainful employment either in the public or private sector," the study noted.

Respondents included widows, women abandoned by their husbands with children to look after, and some who were undergoing midwife training while working as nurses in the same hospitals where the surrogacy procedures are carried out.

While the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has a guideline for IVF clinics in place, the stronger ART (Assisted Reproductive Technique) Bill, which was approved by the health and law ministries, is yet to be tabled in parliament. It presses for stronger monitoring and regulatory measures for the clinics.

The report raises concern about the rights of surrogate mothers and the illegal functioning of ART clinics across the country.

"There should be legislation directly on the subject of surrogacy arrangement involving all three parties: the surrogate mother, the commissioning parents and the child. There is a need of right-based legal framework for surrogate mothers, as the ICMR guidelines are not enough," Ranjana Kumari, director of the CSR, said.

The ICMR national guidelines, given in 2005, have drawn flak for want of a stringent licensing procedure to open IVF clinics, other than failing to draw up any regulation on the age of the woman undergoing IVF treatment and insufficient monitoring of existing clinics.

"The surrogacy contract is signed between the surrogate mother (including her husband), the commissioning parents and the fertility physicians. The clinics wash their hands off from being party to such contracts to evade legal hassles. There is no fixed rule as per the amount of compensation for the surrogate mother; it is arbitrarily decided upon by the clinics," the study said.

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