Same-sex couples may be deprived of reproductive tech

Same-sex couples may be deprived of reproductive tech

Same-sex couples and live-in partners cannot avail assisted reproductive technologies offered by fertility clinics if the government sticks to the definition of “couple” proposed in a draft legislation.

In a 2013 draft of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill, “couples” have been defined as “a relationship between a male and female person who live together in a shared household through a relationship in the nature of marriage.” By definition, same-sex couples and live-in partners are outside the scope of the new bill, which is being debated by the government.

“It is also clear that as per definition, gay couple(s) cannot access ARTs in India once the bill is implemented. The current clause in the draft bill is discriminatory, baseless and a violation of rights to equality, freedom and reproduction,” said a member of the NGO Sama Resources Group for Women and Health. 

A Health Ministry official told Deccan Herald that the bill was still being drafted and there would be more corrections before the final version was sent to the Union Cabinet for approval. The draft bill was updated at least three times, in 2008, 2010 and 2013. A fourth update is on the cards. 

It was sent to five ministries. Comments from the External Affairs and Home ministries were awaited, sources said.

The NGO raised a series of objections against several provisions in the bill dealing with surrogate mothers’ rights, financial benefits, frequency of egg donation and insurance. In the absence of any regulation, the ART clinics have spawned a surrogacy business in the country.

The last 20 years saw an exponential rise in the number of infertility clinics. At present, anybody can open an infertility or ART clinic without taking permission from the government. Consequently, a number of clinics have mushroomed in the country. 

The Union Home Ministry had earlier issued a guideline to restrict the number of foreign couples who are drawn to India due to its poor regulations and mushrooming clinics.
 According to the guidelines, foreign couples commissioning surrogacy in India will be required to have a medical visa. Besides, they have to be married successfully for more than two years.

Such people will also have to take an “exit” permission from a foreign regional registration office after producing certificates from the ART clinics. Only those recognised by the Indian Council of Medical Research will be considered.

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