SurrogacyIndia’s focus is in fertility, not infertility. Making babies, is possible. ‘Possible’ is what we believe in.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Parity poser in leave ruling

New Delhi, July 19: A court verdict entitling a "commissioning mother" to maternity leave after having a child through surrogacy has turned the spotlight on the lack of rights for the surrogate mothers themselves.

Friday's Delhi High Court judgment has prompted women's activists to renew their demand for quick passage of a five-year-old bill that seeks to protect surrogate mothers from being underpaid or cheated, or from risking their health and lives.

Currently, government rules in India do not allow maternity leave to the mothers of children born through surrogacy. But a single-judge bench said on Friday that denying maternity leave to a commissioning mother amounts to "turning a blind eye to the advancement that science has made".

Its ruling came on a petition from a central government employee who had sought maternity leave after having twins with the help of a surrogate mother.

"The commissioning mother continues to remain the legal mother of the child, both during and after the pregnancy," the court said.

"It follows... that the commissioning mother's entitlement to maternity leave cannot be denied only on the ground that she did not bear the child."

The court left it to a "competent authority" to fix the period of the maternity leave for commissioning mothers.

In this case, though, the petitioner was allowed the standard maternity leave of 180 days while her appeal was pending. The Centre and state governments have been giving maternity leave to adoptive mothers, too, since 2007.

But no relief has been forthcoming for surrogate mothers. If the commissioning mother needs to look after her newborn, activists say, so does the surrogate mother need to rest and recuperate.

If most surrogate mothers are unemployed or day labourers, they add, that's all the more reason the law should protect their interests. Activists say that surrogate mothers are usually paid a pittance, often less than what's promised in the contract.

India has been allowing commercial (paid) surrogacy since 2002 but it remains unregulated. A UN-backed study had two years ago estimated surrogacy to be a $400-million (Rs 2,540 crore) business annually in India; activists say it could be worth twice that.

But there is no minimum rate for the surrogate mothers, and most of their private contracts with the commissioning couples or individuals are not legally binding.

"The few contracts I've seen consist of a four-line paragraph on a 100-rupee stamp paper stating the woman would be given X amount of money with no rights over the child," said Manasi Mishra, head of the research division of Centre for Social Research, a Delhi-based women's rights think thank.

"Sometimes the commissioning woman even refuses to take the baby if it doesn't match the couple's expectations (about its health or gender)."


No comments: