NEW DELHI: Short of calling it draconian, the Congress on Friday lambasted the new draft surrogacy Bill as “retrogressive” in every possible way. Indicating that it would oppose the Bill tooth and nail, the party said it reflected “Stone Age” mentality, completely “out of sync with the times”.
The Union Cabinet had earlier approved the draft Bill with a strong critique against what it called “womb-renting” and commercial exploitation of surrogacy using poor women.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who communicated the Union Cabinet’s decision to the media, said it had almost become a fashion with celebrities who were misusing it to make their wives avoid labour pain. Though Swaraj never mentioned them, the hint was obvious — Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri famously had opted for surrogacy for their third child, AbRam.
Meanwhile, taking on the government, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi claimed that the draft Bill approved by the Modi Cabinet was not just stringent, but also “anti-liberal and anti-civil rights”. “Look at the punishment, the Bill provides for 10-year imprisonment for breaking any of the surrogacy clauses.”
The Cabinet-approved draft Bill, which is expected to go the Standing Committee of Parliament for stake-holders feedback, allows infertile couples to go for surrogacy, but only through a relative. Many countries, including the UK, have similarly banned commercial surrogacy.
But the Congress is of the view that the new Bill seems to be “something resembling an unscientific draft from the Stone Ages”. It was strange that the reason for excluding Overseas Citizen of India and foreigners is that “divorces are very common in foreign countries”. “They have delegated the drafting of this surrogacy bill perhaps to the surrogate RSS and VHP,” he said.
Singhvi said the UPA draft bill — the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Bill — too had sought to ban homosexuals from opting for surrogate parenthood, but contrary to the new draft “our approach was to address individual needs — case by case, with several pros and cons like guardianship clause for NRI, during the period of surrogacy, etc. “Why are they restricting surrogacy to married couples? It could be desired by widows, live-in partners, NRIs,” he said. If all categories are banned, then why have surrogacy at all, he asked.