‘It amounts to sale of motherhood’: Surrogacy warrior who moved SC speaks up
Lawyer Jayashree Wad knew a friend whose relative had a surrogate child. But was unaware that surrogacy is a huge trade in the country until she read an article in a weekly magazine in 2014.
The report made Wad go back to her books on biology, a subject she graduated in before becoming a lawyer. She dug out details on the “flourishing business” in India.
After a year-long research, she approached the Supreme Court in 2015 to highlight the pitfalls of the unregulated industry.
“It amounts to sale of motherhood,” the 78-year-old mother of two lawyer-sons said on Thursday.
“I read about how women were exploited by a handful of medical experts who controlled it (surrogacy business), which I thought should be stopped. Surrogate moms are not told about the risks.”
Hearing her plea, a top court bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi nudged the government to frame a law.
While the matter was pending before the court and the law was yet to be drafted, the Centre issued notifications that banned import of embryo and disallowed foreigners, NRIs and Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) to opt for surrogate children in India.
Wad undertook the exercise single-handedly. Her family – which has many lawyers – was supportive of the endeavour. However, she was keen on pursuing the cause on her own.
“I was free from all my responsibilities and gave all the time I had. The petition prepared was supported by documents running into 525 pages. Citations from other countries were annexed to prove surrogacy was not recognised all over the world and it could lead to problems for children if it remains unchecked here,” she said.
She recalled a German couple’s ordeal in taking two surrogate children back home from India. The couple fought a frustrating legal battle for two years before their surrogate sons could travel. It happened only after the children went through the inter-country adoption procedure supervised by an Indian agency, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
Till then, the kids were stateless because Germany had refused to grant them citizenship and India had turned down requests for their passports.
Wad hoped the new surrogacy bill would be tabled in Parliament during the winter session and it did not meet the fate of drafts prepared in 2010 and 2012. “The earlier bills lapsed because they were never finalised and tabled,” she said.
The government might take a back seat on the issue, but Wad will not. Ten days ago she filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking to know the status of the bill, probably prompting the government to finalise the bill and getting it approved by the Union cabinet on Wednesday.
Wad, a lawyer for the past 40 years, refused to share her picture for publication, saying it’s against professional ethics.