Gender bias (inequality) in Surrogacy

It is known to all of us that control over female sexuality and reproduction has historically reinforced women’s second-class position in society. Surrogate motherhood perpetuates a long tradition of the use of women’s bodies by others and reinforces stereotypes about women’s role in the division of labor. Although some economists have argued that surrogacy allows women to better themselves economically by selling their reproductive capacities, it deepens rather than ameliorates, gender inequality.

 A few among the many issues surrogacy raises are:

  • ethical and practical ramifications of the commodification of women and their bodies – beyond universal sexual commodification;
  • exploitation of poor, low income and otherwise financially vulnerable women;
  • implications for women’s reproductive rights if embryos become legally defined;
  •  rights of the children produced to information regarding their genetic history and any siblings they may have who are the offspring of the biological parents;
  • prevention and prosecution of fraud by surrogacy brokers; and
  • the moral and ethical consequences of transforming a normal biological function of a woman’s body into a commercial contract.

It is assumed that there is an equal exchange in the process of surrogacy; that is the money paid for the service rendered. But in the reality, the contract between the parties to surrogacy would not exist if the parties were equal. Within the framework of surrogacy transactions, the contract is always biased in favor of the financially secure intended parents. It would not be wrong to say that the freedom of the surrogate mother is an illusion; the arbitration of rights hides central social and class issues that make surrogacy contracts possible.

Internationally, deep regulatory divides have fueled a growing global market in which financially privileged individuals and third-party intermediaries, who benefit economically from the commodification of reproduction, exploit low-income and poor women for their reproductive capacities. Surrogacy and egg trafficking have become pervasive international phenomena in which women’s poverty and subordinate status throughout the world increase their exposure to gender-based exploitation and physical harm.

In some countries such as India, surrogates are separated from their husbands and children for the duration of the pregnancy, imprisoned in clinics where they are stationed assembly-line style in bed after bed, and must obediently take orders from their clinic overseers while their own children develop emotional and psychological problems.

High rates of multiple births produced by the implantation of several embryos – there are no caps to the number that can be implanted – and infection resulting from IVF, place both surrogates and babies at high risk for complications. When problems arise during the pregnancy, the wellbeing of the child is given precedence over the health of the woman – obviously because money talks. Care of the surrogate ends with the birth of the child even when the woman who bears the child suffers lasting effects.

According to the Mumbai-based Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction, its member clinics across India conducted an estimated 18,000 cycles of IVF treatments last year, averaging a 30 percent rate of pregnancy. But the group said that only half of India’s fertility centers count themselves among its members, making the total number of IVF treatments sought last year much higher.

Talking about the caste-based discrimination, what makes Surrogacy particular to India, though, is that many infertile couples demand egg donors and surrogate mothers of a particular caste and sub-caste when they seek surrogacy services. It is found that the Couples are very particular about the caste hierarchy of the surrogate carrier.

In contrast to the West, where medical fitness is often a key criterion for choosing egg donors, in India, medical checks are done after the family is convinced about the donor or surrogate’s caste background. Among younger and urban Indians, caste is increasingly a non-issue and the old social order is slowly disappearing ONLY to vigorously reappear in unlikely places like fertility clinics. Not just the caste of the Surrogate mother, her looks, skin color, and height is often a criterion too.

WAY FORWARD

An international declaration concerning reproductive exploitation is urgently needed. The practice of global reproductive trafficking in women and children infringes upon several basic human rights under international law and is a violation of international agreements on health and medical standards. The international community must recognize global reproductive trafficking as a unique kind of human exploitation.

Beyond the basic right of every individual to human dignity, enshrined in the major international and regional human rights law instruments, the trafficking in eggs and surrogacy have implications for women’s rights, the right to an adequate standard of health, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to a family, and the rights of the child.

The laws on egg trafficking and surrogacy should protect the basic rights and interests of the women involved. Specifically, these laws must take into consideration the special vulnerability of women in a patriarchal world where inequality and subordinate status remain universal in the 21st century. They must protect the rights of women to choose the number and spacing of their children or whether they choose not to have children. They must also pay special attention to international standards regarding voluntary and informed consent.

Gender inequality is certainly an important factor in determining whether surrogacy can be implemented in a manner that respects women’s human rights. However, as with other surrogacy concerns, the risks associated with gender inequality are not particular to surrogacy, but instead present in many aspects of society. Moreover, any risk that surrogacy could leave women vulnerable to abuse must be weighed against the fact that restricting surrogacy aggravates gender inequality by depriving women of a source of economic empowerment and dictating how they are permitted to use their bodies. Such restrictions may reinforce ideas that women who use their sexual or reproductive capacities in certain ways are immoral, and that these capacities should therefore be controlled. In addition, in jurisdictions where only altruistic surrogacy is permitted, women may be pressured to perform difficult labor without compensation, encouraging the view that women’s labor is not valuable or is only worthy when offered for “altruistic” rather than financial reasons.`

Accordingly, women’s equality is best promoted by a policy that allows women to choose the terms under which they offer their labor—including paid surrogacy if they so choose—but provides them protection from any human rights abuses.

REFERENCES

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

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In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

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