July 05, 2020
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The In Vitreous State

Aussie parents shop for surrogates in India

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The In Vitreous State
The In Vitreous State

Surrogacy Rules Across World

  • Australia In most parts, commercial surrogacy is illegal. Where allowed, the surrogate mother is considered the legal mother.
  • India Commercial surrogacy began in 2002
  • Canada Illegal
  • Hungary Illegal
  • Japan Illegal
  • France Illegal
  • Israel State-controlled surrogacy
  • United Kingdom Legal since 2009
  • United States Most states have their own laws. Florida and California have more relaxed legislation.


India is now the baby hub of the Australasian world. The Aussies are queueing up for a ‘made in India’ baby as surrogacy is illegal in most Australian states (in the few where commercial surrogacy is permitted, the law recognises the surrogate as the legal mother). This has led to many Australians heading to countries where they can rent a womb. India has become the destination of choice for fertility tourists: it’s cheap, has excellent doctors and, most importantly, has women ready to gestate a foetus to delivery for a price.

In fact, 1,500 children are born to parents across the world through a surrogate in India each year. And unofficial figures suggest that 179 babies were born to Australian parents last year in India. The Australian High Commission in India has now acknowledged this and has set guidelines to assist its people in taking their babies home trouble-free. Many say this may well have come in the backdrop of improved ties between the two countries after the prime ministers’ summit here last month. It also evinces a new pragmatism on part of the Australians, although it raises serious questions of ethics.

The high commission’s website now has a special section for “children born through surrogacy arrangements in India”, in which it advises Australians to exercise extreme caution when opting to go the surrogacy route, given the laws back in Australia and the legal status of surrogacy in the country. Then it goes on to list, in painstaking detail, the steps that need to be taken for legalising the process. It states a large number of documents and tests, such as a DNA test for the parents in Australia and for the child in specific centres in Delhi and Mumbai. The result of the latter test is sent to Australia in order to be given final clearance. The website also details all the documents required to be procured and submitted. A list that includes no objection certificates from the surrogate mother, the doctor and the hospital, among other documents.

The web portal goes on to warn prospective parents that “Indian legislation in respect to surrogacy is limited and Indian laws are expected to change in response to the growing demand for surrogacy arrangements”. That the move to have a baby in India is fast gaining popularity in Australia can also be attributed to couples sharing their stories on social media networks and YouTube and urging other parents to try India for a hassle-free surrogate experience.

Surrogacy Australia, a non-profit association helping Australians with their surrogacy abroad, estimates an average 50 babies are born to Australian expatriates in India each year. It also points out that “the practice of paying an overseas surrogate carries a jail term of up to 10 years in some states in Australia.”

Surrogacy Laws India, a Delhi-based law firm specialising in surrogacy, emphasises that “international surrogacy involves bilateral issues, where the laws of both the nations have to be at par, or else the concerns and interests of parties involved will remain unresolved. Due regard must be given to such concerns in order to protect against the commercialisation of the human reproductive system, the exploitation of women and the commodification of children.”

Others are more hopeful. “We welcome the move of countries recognising surrogacy in India. This may well push our government to look at the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill, which has been with the law commission since 2010,” an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) member said.

That aside, the need of the hour is for the state to implement safeguards against surrogacy becoming exploitative.

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