Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fertility Tourism

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by German couple Jan Balaz and Susane Lohle who want Indian citizenship for their surrogate twins born of a Gujarati woman. The couple’s argument is that Indian citizenship would help the babies get visas to travel to Germany that does not recognize surrogacy. Opposing the couple’s plea, Solicitor General of Indian Gopal Subramanium has submitted thus: ‘‘There is no difficulty if the persons are Indian, but when it comes to foreign nationals, we have to consider many social dimensions, like that of exploitation of these children. In the end, we have to ask if this is a country where people are going to enter a contract to buy or sell children.’’ The apex court has agreed with Subramanium that in the absence of a specific legislation or rules governing conditions of surrogacy, there is no option but for the judiciary to step in with more safeguards, mainly in cases of agreements with foreign nationals. Surrogacy (renting out of womb to infertile couples) in India, ever since it was legalized in 2002, has triggered many a legal and ethical debate, given the sensitivity of the subject and the vacuum of laws dealing with it. In the instant case, the Supreme Court has raised the question as to whether babies born out of surrogacy are being treated as ‘‘commodity’’. The apex court’s observation should inform the country of the nuances of the surrogacy boom and measures to prevent its exploitation, especially in view of foreign couples flooding India for surrogacy. The crux of the matter is that fertility tourism, of which Gujarat of late has become a hub, has this unnerving dimension of an innocent child being ‘‘stateless’’ as in the case of the German couple’s baby, as the apex court has rightly observed. Let there be a healthy debate on surrogacy. THE SENTINEL

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