Karan Johar is the latest in the list of Bollywood bigwigs who opted for surrogacy to bring their baby in this world. Before him, we saw Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, and Tusshar Kapoor among others, who become parents through surrogacy.
Abu Azmi, a Samajwadi Party leader, has mocked Karan Johar for his choice. While the words of the SP motor mouth are in bad taste, we should be reminded that our government is also against such commercial surrogacy.
If the draft Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 is to become a law any time soon, Johar would be one of the last few to enjoy biological parenthood through surrogacy.
India legalised surrogacy in 2002, and by 2012, it had become the surrogacy capital of the world churning $500 million per year. With this boom sprang several issues like that of nationality of the new-born, rights of the surrogate, risk of human trafficking etc.
Considering all these reservations, the bill puts a complete ban on commercial surrogacy, citing ethical violations leading to commodified motherhood and turning it into an industry. The Centre has defended the bill as progressive and in the interest of gender justice.
The Law would make it illegal for unmarried couples, live-ins, homosexuals and single parents to opt for surrogacy. Instead, it allows surrogacy only on altruistic basis, without accepting any money except for medical expenses.
While the law would hit the Rs 25,000 crore Artificial Reproduction Treatment (ART) industry (a 2009 estimate) badly, it also opens a huge ground for exploitation, where women can be coerced to bear an intra-family child. The sanskaari approach ignored the patriarchal reality of most of the Indian households.
It is therefore, not a time to make personal comments on who or why go for surrogacy, and instead, there should be an informed debate on the topic.
Surrogates, the invisible workforce, shouldn’t be viewed just as wombs, but as workers. And like any other gendered and informal labour markets, the government’s job is to ease access to this new technology by providing legal protection to all parties. We need simple, airtight law with voluntary/involuntary surrogacy as basic tenet, one that protects the workers from touts, counterfeits and rogues.
While these, among other considerations, would help the regulation of surrogacy in a more objective manner, the real change begins when the mindset of the likes of Abu Azmi are corrected and reminded of their limits against other person’s intimate decisions.
(The writer is an independent journalist based in New Delhi. She can be reached at @ZoyaRasul. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)