World

Trafficking fears over proposed surrogacy law

NEW DELHI India's proposed law to regulate its booming surrogacy industry and curb the exploitation of impoverished Indian women could result in more foreign women being trafficked into the country to rent out their wombs, a leading expert has warned.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is considering a bill to ban commercial surrogacy while allowing "altruistic" surrogacy to infertile, married Indian couples. In such cases, the surrogate must be related to the couple, and cannot accept payment.

Ms Pinki Virani, author of Politics Of The Womb - The Perils of IVF, Surrogacy and Modified Babies, said the draft law, which is widely expected to be passed later this year, did not go far enough.

"In its current form, if passed as law, India's surrogacy bill could exacerbate human trafficking," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday.

"If the surrogacy law does not specify that the altruistic surrogate must be an Indian citizen, and that she must be an Indian resident, there will be a continuing of horrific human right abuses."

Activists say criminal networks could easily provide fake identity documents to trafficked women in a bid to pass them off as suitable surrogates for infertile couples willing to break the law and pay for surrogacy.

Ms Virani said there were already cases of women from neighbouring countries such as Nepal being trafficked to Indian fertility clinics for the purposes of surrogacy.

India opened up to commercial surrogacy in 2002. It is among just a handful of countries - including Georgia, Russia and Ukraine - and a few US states where women can be paid to carry another's genetic child through a process of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer.

There are no accurate figures on the size of India's fertility industry, but various studies suggest it is worth at least US$3.7 billion (S$5.2 billion) - with 3,000 fertility clinics producing around 2,000 foreign babies from Indian surrogates annually. - REUTERS

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