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Poverty, unemployment, lack of regulations promote surrogate mothers in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah 
A recent study, carried out by the Centre for Social Research (CSR), Delhi, has said that majority of mothers who go in for becoming surrogate mothers are driven by two major reasons – poverty and unemployment. Carried out in three Gujarat districts, where Artificial Reproductive Technique (ATR) clinics flourish, Anand, Surat and Jamnagar, the study found that 86.7% of the respondents in Anand and 88.6% respondents in Surat said poverty drove them into surrogacy. As for Surat, to 91.4% of the respondents, unemployment was the main reason.
The word surrogate means substitute. Which means a surrogate mother is the substitute for the genetic-biological mother. In common language, a surrogate mother is the person who is hired to bear a child, which she hands over to her employer at birth. In the past, surrogacy arrangements were generally confined to kith and kin of close relatives, family, or friends, usually as an altruistic deed. But, with the introduction of financial arrangements, surrogacy has extended its network beyond family, community, state, and even across the country.
“The concept of surrogacy has turned a normal biological function of a woman’s body into a commercial contract”, the study said, adding, “Surrogate services are advertised. Surrogates are recruited, and operating agencies make huge profits. In Anand, majority of the surrogate mothers mentioned that they received Rs. 3-3.99 lakh for being a surrogate mother, in Surat they received between Rs 2.1-2.99 lakh, and in Jamnagar they received up to Rs 2 lakh.”


Suggesting that India is emerging as a popular destination for surrogacy, the study said, “Cheap medical facilities, advanced reproductive technological know-how, coupled with poor socio-economic conditions, and a lack of regulatory laws in India combined to make India an attractive option.” It estimates that surrogacy is a flourishing $450 million business. “There are over 600 fertility clinics in India. However, it appears that the state of Gujarat is particularly popular, especially among westerners”, the study added.
The strongest incentive for foreigners come to India, the study said, is relatively low cost as surrogacy fees, ranging from $2,500 to $7,000. “The total costs can be anything between $10,000 and $35,000. This is a lot less than what intended parents pay in the United States, where rates fluctuate between $59,000 and $80,000. On an average, most Indian surrogate mothers are paid in installments over nine months. If they are unable to conceive they are often not paid at all and sometimes they must forfeit a portion of their fee if they miscarry”.
Coming to their socio-economic status, the study found, 31.7% respondents in Anand, 54.3% in Surat and 60% in Jamnagar were educated up to primary level. In Anand around 51.7% of the surrogate mothers were illiterate, which is an important observation as it affects their ability to be involved in gainful employment either in the public or private sector. As many as 61.7% respondents in Anand and 91.4% in Surat were employed prior to agreeing to be surrogate mothers, but 38.3% in Anand were unemployed.
Many of the respondents, who were employed, worked as housemaids or domestic help in both Anand and Surat (36.7% and 40% respectively), the study said. In contrast, 20% of them in Jamnagar were construction workers, another 20% were working in hotels or restaurants and the rest of the 40% were working as nurses or have assisted in the clinic/hospital work as mid wives or casual workers. The majority (38%) of the respondents in Anand, Surat and Jamnagar earn within the Rs. 1,000-2,000 category per month. Around 6.67% in Anand and 22.86% in Surat fall under the category of Rs. 2001-3000.
The study further said, in Anand, 33.3% of the surrogate mothers stayed in kutcha houses, 41.7% stayed in semi-pucca houses and 23.3% of the respondents stayed in pucca houses. In Surat, 17.1% stayed in kutcha houses, 40% of them stayed in semi-pucca houses and 42.9% of them stayed in pucca houses. In Jamnagar, 40% of them stayed in kutcha houses, only 20% of the respondents stayed in pucca houses and the rest of the 40% stayed in semi-pucca houses, the study said.
Majority of the respondents in Anand (55%) and Jamnagar (60%) had kutcha latrine facility in their houses, the study pointed out. However, 26.67% of the respondents in Anand, 68.57% of the respondents in Surat and 40% of the respondents in Jamnagar had sanitary latrines. The majority of the surrogate mothers fetch drinking water from the tube well (76.7% in Anand, 80% in Surat and all the respondents in Jamnagar). Only 23.3% of the respondents in Anand and 20% of them in Surat have access to the supply water.
“It was noticed that all the surrogate mothers already had children of their own”, the study said, adding, “Majority of the respondents had two children. Most of the surrogate mothers (76%) were already pregnant at the time of the interview. Majority of the surrogate mothers were between the age of 26 and 35. Almost all the surrogate women belonged to Hindu religion. Only 5% in Anand and 8.6% in Surat were affiliated to Islam; and 8.3% in Anand and 5.7% in Surat belong to Christianity. Most of the surrogate mothers were married.”
“Very few surrogate mothers stated that they faced any resistance from family and friends; 86.67% in Anand, 85.7% in Surat and 80% of the respondents in Jamnagar said that they faced no resistance from their family and friends”, the study said, adding, “Majority of respondents in the three districts reported harmonious relationship with their husbands. The reason for the same may be joint decision of the surrogate mother and her husband to undertake surrogacy or husband’s upper hand in taking the decision.”
Majority (88%) of surrogate mothers stated that surrogacy agreement between all the involved parties takes place in the form of a written contract (83.3% in Anand, 97.1% in Surat and 80% in Jamnagar). The remaining respondents were found to be waiting for the contract to be signed, the study said, though regretting, “Majority of the surrogate mothers did not receive any copy of the contract. Only two surrogate mothers in Anand and Surat each had got a copy of the contract.”
In 98.3% of cases in Anand surrogate mothers stayed in shelter homes provided by the surrogacy clinics during their pregnancy period. But in Surat (82.9%) and Jamnagar (60%) said that they stayed in their respective houses, according to the study. “The rest of the 40% in Jamnagar said that they stayed in nearby villages during the pregnancy period. The payment was made to them either in installments or entire amount it was coaxed by their husbands who spend it on alcohol or use it for setting up business which in most cases does not take up.”

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