Rajya Sabha members across parties discussed changes in regulations of the provisions of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, in conclusion the government on Thursday, November 21 agreed to refer the draft legislation to a House Select Committee.

pregnant woman, pregnancy,

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019, mandates: 

  • Only a close relative can be a surrogate mother.
  • Intending couples should be married for five years.

Several members of Rajya Sabha supported the bill but pointed out certain gaps in the legislation while taking it up. The proposed legislation, moved by Health Minister Harsh Vardhan in the Upper House had been passed by the Lok Sabha in the monsoon session.

Close relative as surrogate mother

Participating in the discussion on the bill, senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh had expressed reservations over the provision regarding only close relatives being allowed to be a surrogate mother.

This is mind-boggling that we are going to be passing a Bill which is going to make only a close relative as a surrogate mother. This flies in the face of our understanding of Indian families and of Indian society. I am absolutely surprised that a Bill can come in this fashion that only surrogacy will be restricted to a close relative - Jairam Ramesh, Congress leader

Five years of marriage

Making a case for sending the bill for scrutiny of the House panel, Ramesh said that he was in support of the bill but not in the current form. "We will pass the Bill. We need regulation but this is not the Bill that should be passed by Parliament in its full knowledge," he added. Senior BJP leader Suresh Prabhu had also pointed out the issue while leading the debate on the bill.

Suresh Prabhu
In picture: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu speaks at an Assocham event on Friday, July 21, 2017.Twitter/DigitalAssocham

This is something which you should really think about so that they can give more attention to the child and can look after the child better - Suresh Prabhu, Senior BJP leader

"I have got great regard and respect for him (Minister). We share a very close relationship. However, the 'close relative' has not been defined in the bill. What I am trying to impress upon is that if it is known within a few months of marriage, why should the couple wait for five years? Why cannot have a child early?" Prabhu said.

Surrogacy bill to prevent unethical practices

The bill seeks to prevent unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and intermediaries involved in importing human embryos and gametes.

"Since the absence of regulation in the country, India has become surrogacy hub where around 3,000 clinics are running illegally and 2,000 foreign babies took birth through surrogacy illegally and unethically," said Vardhan. He said in most countries, commercial surrogacy is not prohibited, but many countries have criminalised it. The European Union has even condemned the practices of surrogacy. On altruistic surrogacy, he said it should not mean monetary business in India.

The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill

The government presented the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 and received several recommendations from the Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Later, the Bill lapsed when the Lok Sabha was dissolved.

The government then replaced the 2016 Bill with The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2019 and introduced it in the Lok Sabha on July 15, 2019. In the Rajya Sabha, the Bill has been proposed after taking note of 13 recommendations of the committee. The Bill seeks to constitute a National Surrogacy Board, state surrogacy boards and appointment of appropriate authorities for regulation of the practice and process of surrogacy.

(With inputs from IANS)