Facing criticism over its draft surrogacy bill, the government today said it is open to incorporating suggestions but insisted that some of its key provisions, including putting a stop to abandonment of children and exploitation of women, are "non-negotiable".
Union Health Minister J P Nadda also dismissed criticism that government was trying to impose moral values on citizens, saying it is about "righteousness" and the technological advancements in this area have to be used in the "right perspective".
"This (bill) is an attempt to stop commercial surrogacy. It has been approved by the Cabinet. It will now go to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Interactions will take place and suggestions will come to the government. We will take note of them. Then it will go to the Parliament.
"Discussions will take place there. So open to idea is inthe sense... this is the direction we have taken. It is our
responsibility to save the mothers by stopping exploitation. To take it to its ultimate end, whatever good idea or suggestions will come, we are open to it," Nadda told media persons.
The Union Cabinet recently gave its nod to the introduction of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 in Parliament, which seeks a complete ban on commercial surrogacy and allowing only legally-wedded Indian couples to opt for children through it.
"Non-negotiable is exploitation of women should not happen, abandonment of children should not take place," Nadda said. The proposed bill also proposes a bar on unmarried couples, single parents, live-in partners and homosexuals from opting for surrogacy.
"It's not a question of imposing moral values, its a question of righteousness. Technological advancement has to be used in the right perspective.
"Proven exploitation (of women) has been there, children have been abandoned and there was no regulation. We have tried to come out in that direction," Nadda said when asked whether the government is trying to impose moral values.
On the proposed provision that only "close relatives" of couples will be allowed to be surrogate mothers, Nadda said, "This bill has got the basic framework of what we accept and what we do not. Under this, opting for a family friend does not come. We will deliberate while framing rules, how far we can go (on widening the ambit).
Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters