NEW DELHI -- The proposed draft Surrogacy Bill 2016, which was passed by the Union Cabinet on Wednesday, is expected to be introduced into the Parliament. If passed, the new legislation will apply to all of India except Jammu and Kashmir.
The draft bill has several checks on who is an eligible candidate for surrogacy, and also has restrictions on who can be a surrogate mother. The government, in this legislation, has also tried to define a couple in "need" for a surrogate child. Here are 9 things you should know about the proposed bill:
1. It bans commercial surrogacy.
The health ministry has proposed to amend the surrogacy laws in India because of increase in commercial surrogacy in India. A press statement from the health ministry said that India "has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries", which has spiralled into unethical practices, putting both surrogate mothers and their babies at risk. However, instead of putting into place checks and balances for this growing industry, the government has proposed simply banning it.
2. Foreigner nationals can't get Indian surrogate mothers.
The bill effectively bans foreigners to seek an Indian surrogate mother. This includes non-resident Indians (NRIs). The Associated Press reported that the Indian surrogacy industry is at "around $1 billion a year and growing".
3. It legalises surrogacy for infertile Indian couples.
The proposed law allows heterosexual married Indian couples with "proven infertility" to try the surrogacy route. This will, by omission, keep out any homosexual couples as the law does not cover them, as well as live-in partners, and single men and women who might want a surrogate child.
4. The length of your marriage matters.
You have to be married for at least five years before approaching a surrogate mother, according to the proposed legislation. Further, the woman has to be between 23-50 years of age and the man should be 26-55 years old.
5. You can't pay a surrogate mother.
If you're a heterosexual married couple who have proven infertility, and you find someone who agrees to be a surrogate mother, you can't pay her. You can pay for any and all of her medical bills, but that's all.
6. You can only approach a close relative for surrogacy.
If you're a heterosexual couple who have proven infertility, and you have found someone who agrees to be a surrogate mother without payment, you have to make sure that person is a "close relative".
7. If you have a child, you can't try for another one.
If you have a child already, or you adopted a child in the past, you can't approach a surrogate mother. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday lashed out on celebrity couples who she reprimanded (without naming names) for having a surrogate child "even though they have two children, one boy and one girl".
8. Surrogacy will be allowed only once.
If you already have a surrogate child, you cannot approach a surrogate mother a second time. And if someone has been a surrogate mother once in the past, they cannot do so again.
9. Surrogacy regulatory bodies.
The government has proposed that it will establish a National Surrogacy Board at the central level, chaired by the health minister, and State Surrogacy Boards and appropriate authorities in the states and union territories. They will overlook all cases of surrogacy and regulate hospitals and clinics that offer this in India.