Surrogate mother need not be a close relative, Rajya Sabha committee recommends

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News: The 23-member Rajya Sabha select committee set up to look into the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019 has advocated 15 major changes.

Facts:

About Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2019

Aim: To regulate the practice and process of surrogacy in India

Key Provisions:

  • Prohibition of Commercial Surrogacy: The bill puts a complete ban on commercial surrogacy. It also bans surrogacy for producing children for sale, prostitution and other forms of exploitation.
  • Permitted Purposes of Surrogacy: It allows altruistic surrogacy for intending couples who have proven infertility.
  • Eligibility criteria for intending couple: An intending couple should have a “certificate of essentiality” issued by the appropriate authority upon fulfilling the following criteria:
    • Indian citizenship and married for at least 5 years
    • Aged between 23 to 50 years old (wife) and 26 to 55 years old (husband)
    • should not have any surviving child (biological, adopted or surrogate) {Exception: a child who is mentally or physically challenged or suffers from life-threatening disorder or fatal illness}
  • Eligibility Criteria for surrogate mother:
    • A close relative of the intending couple
    •  Married; having a child of her own
    • Aged 25-35 years
    • A surrogate only once in her lifetime
    • Possess a certificate of medical and psychological fitness for surrogacy
  • Formation of National and State Surrogacy Boards: It proposes to regulate surrogacy in India by establishing a National Surrogacy Board at the central level and state surrogacy boards and appropriate authorities in the state and Union Territories.
  • Parentage of the surrogate child: It states that any child born out of a surrogacy procedure shall be the biological child of the intending couple. Also, the child will be entitled to all rights and privileges that are available to a natural child
  • Abortion of Surrogate Child: It states that in case of abortion of the surrogate child, written consent of the surrogate mother is mandatory. Also, there must be an authorization from appropriate authorities, in compliance with the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971.
  • Offenses and Penalties: Any form of monetary transactions in the name of surrogacy has been made a criminal offense. It imposes a fine of up to Rs. 10 lakh and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the following offenses:
    • Advertisement of the act of commercial surrogacy.
    • The exploitation of the surrogate mother.
    • Exploiting or abandoning the surrogate child.
    • Sale and Import gametes or human embryos.

Major Changes recommended in the bill by the Committee

  • A surrogate mother need not be a “close relative”
  • Omission of the five-year time limit before seeking surrogacy
  • allow single women (widow or a divorcee and Persons of Indian Origin) to avail of surrogacy
  • Increase in insurance cover for the surrogate mother from the 16 months to 36 months.
  • Delete the definition of “infertility” as “the inability to conceive after five years of unprotected intercourse” on grounds that it was too long a period for a couple to wait for a child.
  • The order regarding the parentage and custody of the child, issued by a Magistrate, should be the birth affidavit for the surrogate child.