A blanket ban may be imposed soon on NRIs, PIOs and foreigners having children through surrogacy in India with the Union health ministry and the National Commission for Women proposing it as part of a new legislation.
The health ministry, which had drafted a bill to deal with issues relating to surrogacy, has also agreed to suggestions by NCW to make legal provisions to allow single women including divorcees and widows to become surrogate mothers, besides setting up of a regulatory body.
At a national consultation on the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, the NCW and health ministry were in agreement that there should be a blanket ban on NRIs, PIOs (Persons of Indian Origins) and foreign nationals to have children through surrogacy in India.
NCW Chairperson Lalita Kumaramangalam said the health ministry has decided to finalise the bill on surrogacy-related issues by November 15.
The consultation was attended by officials from home ministry, women and child development ministry, the National Human Rights Commission and representatives of various states besides the NCW.
The bill was first drafted in 2010 which was revised in 2013.
The health ministry has now sought public opinion on the bill before it could be finalised.
Kumarmangalam also said the home ministry has conveyed that it will make changes in the bill to make provisions on not to allow NRIs, PIOs, overseas Indians along with foreign nationals to have children though surrogacy.
"The bill that stands today, says only 'Indians' will be allowed and not 'of Indian origin'. The home ministry has clarified that they will make changes in the bill and there is going to be a blanket ban on all foreign nationals and NRIs, Overseas Citizens of India or Persons of India Origin," Kumarmangalam said.
Kumaramangalam also said NCW has asked Health Ministry to allow single women apart from married Indian women to go for surrogacy.
"This is very unfair to single women whether they are widow or divorced. It is in a way restricting their reproductive rights," she said.
The other recommendations by the Commission and experts include maintaining the anonymity of surrogate mothers and making provisions for intensive care and medical check-ups for surrogate mothers.
"Most of the surrogate mothers are poor women. They face several hardships during the process. These include ambiguous contracts, health concerns, exploitation by middle men or hospital authorities, lack of enforceability of contract by mothers due to their socio-economic vulnerability," she said.
Noting that unregulated surrogacy is leading to human trafficking, the NCW chief said that the new law will have provisions to deal with the problem.
As per the NCW, around 30,000 illegal fertility clinics are operating in the country with majority of them being located in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi.
"We don't want to become hub of surrogacy in the world. There are a huge number of women who are trapped into this. The increasing amount of unregulated surrogacy happening in India is causing various problems for mother and the child," she said.
She said India was emerging as a surrogacy hub across the world with a 17-20 per cent annual growth.
"This is a multi-billion dollar business in India and totally unlegislative field. There is no law expect few guidelines of ICMR which are not binding. It has been growing 17 to 20 per cent annually," she said.
The sudden increase in surrogacy has been due to comparatively low cost of medical services and easy availability of surrogate mothers and lack of laws to regulate.