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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Parenting comes of age, but miles to go

KOLKATA: Next month, a 40-something gentleman will travel to Ahmedabad from Kolkata to begin the process of having a surrogate child. But what if the gender was reversed for the person keen on opting for surrogacy? Would the law allow her to use her name in the birth certificate without disclosing the father's identity?

These are the questions thrown up by the Supreme Court's landmark judgment allowing single women or unwed mothers the freedom of not disclosing the father's name.

Though current rules do not allow any single man or woman from abroad to apply for surrogacy in India, there are no such limitations for Indian singles. Hence, the ruling will not have any direct impact on the number of single women keen on surrogacy.

Says Dr Naina Patel, who is often referred as the country's go-to fertility expert specializing in surrogacy, "In 2012, the ministry of external affairs had issued a guideline that stated that only heterosexual couples who have been married for two years can go for surrogacy. There were no such restrictions for singles in India."

According to Patel, the process of surrogacy involves placing the egg with sperm in the embryo in the womb. Laws state that the birth certificate is supposed to be issued in the name of the single female who is opting for surrogacy. In case of a single male, the birth certificate is issued in his name.

The Gujarat-based doctor has had Indian single fathers approaching her for surrogacy. "Most are in the age group between 35 and 42. Post-divorce, they want to go ahead with surrogacy. I've done at least three such cases before 2005. Single females have also come to me. But none of them have gone ahead with it," she says.

What is it that prompts a single woman to consider surrogacy? Says Dr Gautam Khastgir, "Single woman who want to opt for kids usually go for IVF. They want to experience the process of pregnancy. One out of 1000 women, who have problems with their uterus, are likely to opt for surrogacy. But I haven't come across such an instance."

Does the law prevent a single mother from opting for surrogacy even if she is biologically capable of being a mother? Khastgir says, "The law doesn't prevent anything."

The cost of surrogacy in Kolkata varies from anywhere between Rs 6 lakh and 10 lakh. Though single women haven't warmed up to this yet, the process has found many takers among single men in the city. "In the past three months, I have got eight such cases. While some were divorced, others had suffered from a broken relationship. Some are closet homosexuals. One of these single men had come to my clinic with his mother. I was so happy to see that he has his parental sanction too," Khastgir adds.

Speaking to TOI, this 58-year-old grandmom-to-be says she is counting her days when her son becomes a dad. "My son is 32. He doesn't want to get married since he has apprehensions about marriages. We didn't want to force marriage on him. When he suggested surrogacy, we took a year to come to terms with his decision," she says refusing to disclose her identity.

She is aware that once the baby is home, she will have to double up as the grandmom and the mother. "Dr Khastgir has assured us that we have age on our side to take the pressure of raising a child. We aren't scared of how society will react," she adds.


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