It has taken an earthquake to bring into focus an unusual phenomenon: many Israeli gay or single people who want to have children through surrogates are travelling to Nepal to have babies using Indian mothers. The practice has developed in recent months, as a result of changes in Indian Indian surrogacy regulations in 2012.
As is well known, India has been a popular destination for commercial surrogacy since the practice was made legal in 2002. Because procedures in India are fairly safe and cheap, approximately 10,000 foreign couples come to India each year to commission pregnancies. Since Israel only allows heterosexual couples to use surrogates, many gay people and single parent-hopefuls chose to come to India, which is close enough for the long and repeated visits that surrogacy requires.
For Indian women from poor families, bearing someone else’s child brings in a substantial amount of cash in one go: a surrogate mother can earn Rs two lakhs, with the entire cost of the pregnancy being borne by the commissioning parents.
Changing the rules
Though India has no law on surrogacy, the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2012 issued guidelines stating that foreign nationals would be issued a medical visa in order to commission surrogacy only if “the foreign man and woman are duly married and the marriage should have sustained for at least two years”. The MHA guidelines thus shut out single foreigners and homosexual couples.
The Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill has been hanging fire for the last five years having been first drafted in 2008, revised in 2010 and 2013 but never making it to parliament.
The shift to Nepal
In January, Nepali Times, a Kathmandu-based English weekly, reported that foreigners looking for surrogate mothers and Indian women willing to bear foreign children were trickling across the open border into the Nepal where regulations were murkier and weaker than in India. In December, Nepal’s cabinet decided to allow foreigners to have surrogate babies as long as the mother carrying the child was also a foreigner.
Women’s right and health activists in both India and Nepal say that while surrogacy is needed, the lack of regulation and ill-advised laws will encourage human trafficking. As it is surrogacy is often manages by middlemen, and surrogacy contracts are rarely signed by parties involved – commissioning parents, surrogate mothers, doctors and clinic managements.
The tightening of surrogacy laws in India and the apparent willingness of Nepal to step up to meet the foreign demand has sent the Israelis across the border for babies. But the earthquake may change the equation once again. As The Times of Israel reports, a new debate on Israel’s surrogacy laws took shape this week. Not only did Israel’s Justice Ministry lift entry restrictions on women carrying surrogate babies for Israelis, religious leaders and legal experts are voicing hopes that the disaster will force Israel to amend its laws to allow gay couples to look for surrogates within the country.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.