Banning of commercial surrogacy a big blow to UAE’s childless Indian expats

Last week, a draft bill proposing to ban commercial surrogacy for Indians and foreigners was cleared by the cabinet.

Surrogate mothers socialise at a dormitory in India. The Indian government hopes to ban Indians and foreigners from using India's surrogacy services in order to protect poor women from exploitation. Allison Joyce / AP Photo
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DUBAI // Indian expatriates said a law drafted by their government banning commercial surrogacy was a major blow to childless couples in the Gulf, but was also much needed to bring under control an industry they said was prone to unethical practices.

Last week, a draft bill proposing to ban commercial surrogacy for Indians and foreigners was cleared by the cabinet. The bill would restrict surrogacy to relatives of couples who have been married for at least five years.

Surrogacy is banned in the GCC, meaning many Indian couples return home to have a child. Dr Pankaj Shrivastav, director of Conceive Fertility Hospital in Dubai, said the law would help to safeguard children, some of whom are abandoned by their would-be parents even before birth.

“We have heard examples where couples opted for surrogacy in India but bailed out during pregnancy, refusing to take responsibility for the child.

“As a result the surrogate and the affiliate clinic get caught in limbo and the child would land in an orphanage. There have also been cases where surrogate parents disappeared after finding out that the child was a girl.”

India’s surrogacy industry generates billions of dollars a year and has come under severe criticism for not caring for the welfare of women or children.

“It has turned extremely commercial,” said Dr Shrivastav. “Surrogacy is more than a medical option, so the Indian government had to come forward.”

N S opted to have a child via surrogacy in India last year. The 43-year-old Indian expat, who lives in Dubai, paid more than Dh136,000 to a clinic after several miscarriages and failed IVF treatments.

“Even though we chose the best option and paid a huge sum, the quality of medical services and hygiene was not up to the mark. I had no idea about the health of my surrogate and her husband. It was crucial for us that they were not suffering, which could harm the child.

“Surrogate women are usually hired and are living in a poor hygiene environment. I was not sure how she and the clinic was going to make sure the child wouldn’t suffer any medical complications.”

Unfortunately, the surrogate mother lost the child at an early stage of the pregnancy.

“The moment I found that my surrogate had lost the baby, I packed my bag and returned to Dubai. I didn’t have emotional and financial strength to be part of this any more,” said N S, who is now a mother after a successful IVF treatment.

She said the whole experience was too much to take for everyone involved. “The whole experience was extremely painful and I would not wish any woman to have to face this.”

Dr Shrivastav suggested that instead of a ban, the Indian government should introduce and enforce regulations to prevent abuses while keeping the option of surrogacy open to citizens living abroad.

“There is a large diaspora that resides outside India. It would be wise for the Indian government to make provisions for NRIs [non-resident Indians] to produce an affidavit to the effect they would not run away from the responsibility. In this way, the interests of the child and [surrogate] mother would be safeguarded.”