April 16, 2009

Surrogacy in India

Well, we were watching some French television and in one of the channels there was a programme that explored the reality of - Babies made in India: the whole Indian surrogacy scene. If you have no clue of what I am talking about, you should probably read this article. I knew that surrogacy was legal in India and I knew about the whole "womb for rent" publicity and everything. And I did guess that the costs in India had to have been phenomenally low to encourage baby-yearners from all walks of life and varied countries and cultures approach our country... but I had no idea that the costs were this low in comparison, nor that the women who undertook the task were paid less than a business-class fare from the US to India. Less than 5000$ for an entirely life-changing gift? One may argue that the $2000-$5000 they're given is way more than they could've expected to earn blah blah... but look what they're giving in return - a baby... which can only be tagged as priceless. No amount of in-vitro fertilizations or any other form of treatment could give a couple a baby born with their genes and that is purely theirs, only grown elsewhere. Call it weird patriotism or vague protectiveness, I feel that these people are being exploited. I doubt if these women would accept this pretty measly amount of money if they knew that elsewhere people were being paid 3 times as much to do the same deed. Maybe they would because they need it so much more for their survival than their counterparts, perhaps. I guess I was more disappointed that the doctors recruiting them for the job didn't offer to have them paid much more than they currently are being given, fully aware that the "going rate" is way more. We Indians seem to have embraced "outsourcing" of all sorts, including Surrogacy it seems, for this is a $440 million-a-year industry. . I guess the whole issue boils down to each one's opinion. And since there are no "fixed rates" at which this is viable, there is no right or wrong... except that to me this feels more wrong than right. Surely I am not the only one?


Saumya said...

Its definitely wrong, there is no doubt abt that, however..what do you think these women would do if they knew that they were getting paid much lesser than their counterparts in other parts of the world? It would be futile to give them that information, since they can DO nothing with it. The reality is that they do this for money and if you offer them more money then this will keep happening and it will be a never ending cycle..at the same time you cannot make it illegal coz then you are snatching away their one "possible" source of income, if you look at it, its no different from prostitution..its all very sad really..I dont think anyone can even pretend that they can offer a solution to these things..we have always been told go to the grassroot of the problem and what is the grassroot of this problem?..greed? poverty? desperation? the list is endless

Seshadri said...

Saumya- I don't feel that the practice is fundamentally wrong. It is a service that someone offers and any need to question the legality doesn't arise. However, exploitation is the issue Jaya discusses about, which I feel is wrong. On a lighter note- labor arbitrage has a whole new meaning.. :)

Sachin said...

I think we Hindustanis give more importance to the amount of happiness we give to the other person. So the women who do this might be feeling happy that they are enhancing the lives of two people by their help, which they value more than the money they get. So, I think they are happy with what they get. But, I agree that now since we have established ourselves in the world as the outsourcing hub, we should start commanding terms.

Jaya said...

Saumya -> Well, I don't think it's legally "wrong" for the practice. I really did mean the exploitation factor, in that, they are paid peanuts compared to what so many others are being paid. On the other hand, though I would like to believe that this is through their consent and not their families pushing them to it for the money, I am sure there are further exploitation cases as well... Sad truth.

Sesh-> You are right... it was the exploitation point of view entirely. Didn't these women deserve as much as the ones in the other countries. I mean approaching India for "cheap" medical surgeries was known of for a long time even before this - transplants, and such. But for babies as well now. Sad, really.

Sachin -> That's a bit naive for me. Give happiness to your family.. your country, etc works. But to strangers? Sure... you can "give" them happiness if it was not a 9-month, life-changing, body-changing issue. Surely this is for the money. On the other hand, I agree with your whole "women can become more independent" conversation with me. That's a bit more sensibile. But then again in a country like India, single women who do this would be shunned anyways... and the ones who are married and still doing it are only doing it for the "betterment" of their families. It's all a huge vicious circle.

Seshadri said...

Jaya - What irks me is the lack of transparency. The doctors/hospitals must explain what the rates at other places around the world for such a service is-though you can never put a price tag on a baby, and any pricing is totally arbitrary, with the exception of the mother's nutrition, pre-natal health care, loss of opportunity costs, etc., which can be quantified.

To ensure fairness of dealing (if there is such a thing) or a normalized payment for the service across the globe, the total cost of the service should be a function of-

1. Quantifiables
2. Hazy regions - a> Cost of living; and b> - consider that there are 5 income groups/standard of living group in India, A, B, C, D and E. Say the surrogate mother earns X rupees and due to which she transitions to the SOL Group C from A. Will a different mom in a different country with SOL groups F, G, H, I, J transition from F to H or G to I if she gets paid Y currency?
3. Unquantifiable - the net worth of the child twenty five years down the line. The surrogate mother gets paid 1% of the child's monthly compensation, which ensures superannuation for the mom or 1% of the child's life insurance in the event that something untoward happens.

A contract should be framed between the parties.

But for the fear that I am making light of the issue, I can build up on the above concept.. but believe me, someone, someday will certainly do it.

The Muse ... said...

It reminded me of exactly what is shown in this episode :


This is taking depravation, exploitation and greed to an entirely new level. A child is a life -> there is no value you can put on a life. I don't buy the giving happiness deal -> some men can't even watch the birthing process - who in their right mind would undergo that pain to "give"?

For their families - yes. In a generation where its becoming increasingly harder to get some sort of justice, either legal or social , no standard way for a poor man to earn his living (India has not even dreamed about minimum wage), this is one among the sad, painful alternatives left to uneducated women.

Jaya said...

Sesh, The Muse -> Thanks for your detailed insights. Keep visiting!

Monsal Varga said...

I think that this issue has the "baby factor" in it, creating on all of us a natural, emotive, reaction.

But if we look at it as any other economical activity (a job, a profession) then what we see is just the way world is: I much gets an Indian doctor paid vs. an English doctor? How much does a waitress in a restaurant in Bangalore compared to a waitress in Lisbon? and so on, and so on. There is exploitation everywhere you look, but there are also the harsh realities of diverse economies each country you go.

Here in Europe we got a true glimpse of it the moment the Euro currency kicked in and everybody could see how much costed - in the very same currency, no need to exchange rates and stuff - a new car, a house, bred, eggs, milk, going out to a restaurant, etc.

The great discrepancies were there mainly because wages are very different from one country to another.

Exploitation is all over, but this surrogate mothers' case touch us deeply due to its emotional weight.

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Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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