The Indian surrogacy debate continues and rules are tightened

14 November 2013

During a recent holiday, I took the time to read the fictional novel by Kishwar Desai, Origins of Love.  The storyline is about surrogacy and advances in reproductive medicine in India.  As a surrogacy lawyer with some experience of Indian surrogacy, it made interesting holiday reading, and I was not surprised by the focus on exploitation.  A similar theme emerged from the recent BBC4 documentary House of Surrogates

Indian surrogacy policies have been in the news again recently. The Indian Government has been struggling with the regulation of its surrogacy market and in 2012, it announced strict visa requirements with the intention of restricting the number of couples able to commission surrogacy arrangements.  A practice since emerged where Embassies were allegedly interpreting the visa guidelines flexibly but, last month, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs warned embassies that concessions would cease by the end of October and that commissioning parents would now be required to apply for a medical visa rather than a tourist visa.  It remains to be seen whether this tightening of rules will make a difference.

The industry in the US is established, with a focus on the well-being of the surrogate mother and, often, psychological support for her. Surely, some of the best practice from the US industry could be implemented worldwide? Some jurisdictions allowing surrogacy insist on pre-approval of surrogacy contracts: perhaps this could be a way forward in India, to protect vulnerable women and to allow the surrogacy industry to develop safely without a cloak of suspicion and concern hanging over it.

Together with my colleague Katie Newbury in our immigration team, I recently wrote an article for the Solicitors Journal, “International surrogacy laws are not keeping up with changing social patterns”, in which we discussed the potential for harmonisation and highlighted further ideas for regulation of the industry to reduce exploitation.

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