WOW | Coffee Break

Should Surrogacy Be Legalised?

Compiled by: Anushka Shrestha
wow photo file © Ram Tandukar/Gokul Shrees

Dr Jyoti Agrawal
Gynecologist

In Nepal, there is bound to be misuse of this process, I feel that there will many people who will take advantage of this law for their own monetary gain.

What is your first impression when you hear of surrogacy?

Jyoti: Surrogacy in itself is not a bad concept but both parties – the person giving up their baby and the person receiving the baby – should be on agreeable terms. Most importantly it shouldn’t be a form of a business transaction. It should be treated as a well-intentioned gift to someone who is desperately trying to have a child of their own.

Sanup: I think generally it is just plantation of sperm to give someone the joy of having a child.

Mona: An emerging scientific discovery which has enabled growing other’s child in one’s womb. It definitely has given hope to infertile people or couples, including homosexual couples to be parents with the continued patriarchal bloodline. It also alarms me as globally there is a growing tendency to commercialise women’s body or her innate capacity to bear a child. The commodification of human life including babies being regarded as a commodity of trade and women regarded as service providers are at high risk of being exploited due to their lower status in power relation and even more so if they are from developing countries and take surrogacy as an opportunity to come out of the desperate trap of poverty in countries like India, Thailand and even Nepal.

Surrogacy is also evolving as a business of outsourcing reproduction and as in any business for a profit, there is a higher chance of exploitation. With several news heard from the globe and Nepali media, it is already treading the path of financial gain at the cost of a woman’s body.

In Nepali society where being a mother out of marriage is regarded as loose or ‘slutty’, sex is just licensed within marital relation with several other discriminatory social norms towards women along with strong notions of good and bad, any woman will think twice to take up this role. The fear of being stigmatised in society where she needs to live throughout her life will not encourage her to choose this.

We hear stories of women who have migrated to Kathmandu taking up the role of surrogate mother. If not for dire poverty, women in Nepal will think twice before choosing to become a surrogate.

Surrogacy has both pros and cons, however, the negative aspects is alarming to me as its commercial conundrum could be breeding ground for exploitation.

Gyanendra: I think in our advancing society, surrogacy is not a bad choice. It has opened the doors of happiness for people who are not able to bear children.

Sushma: The fact that someone is able to help those who cannot become parents is amazing.

Rohit: I never imagined such a thing could exist, so honestly, I don’t have deep thoughts about it.

Sanup Paudel
Musician

I think it is fine to legalise surrogacy in Nepal. It’s completely fine if someone is willing to do it whether voluntarily or for commercial benefits

Do you think legalising surrogacy is good for Nepal?

Jyoti: In Nepal, there is bound to be misuse of this process, I feel that there will many people who will take advantage of this law for their own monetary gain. This could be a second party who is mediating for both parties and even the surrogate’s own family pressuring her to do so. Had this been a developed country with educated citizens aware of their rights, legalising surrogacy with subsequent monitoring and enforcement wouldn’t be such a big problem.

Sanup: I think it is fine to legalise surrogacy in Nepal. It’s completely fine if someone is willing to do it whether voluntarily or for commercial benefits, we are nobody to judge.

Mona: Legalising altruistic surrogacy can be an option, however commercial surrogacy should not be entertained without clear regulations, monitoring and proper action. It can exploit the surrogate mother. In the case of Nepal, commercial surrogacy is risky as our government lacks a proper mechanism to implement and monitor laws as noted in other legal rights like Chhaupadi, domestic violence and more.The legal system should ensure human rights of the child as mentioned in CRC, the surrogate mother and of the intended parents. Right to bodily integrity as mentioned in CEDAW shouldn’t be jeopardised while legalising surrogacy. Legal provision should consider possible cons of surrogacy taking lessons from India with similar social and poverty conditions to Nepal which is regarded as a baby factory. Nepal is a poor country, there is a high risk for women from poor economic and social backgrounds falling prey to commercial surrogacy with commercialisation of wombs.

Gyanendra: Surrogacy should be legalised because those who want to do it will do it even if it’s illegal. In fact, by legalising I believe there will be a reduction in crime rate and with proper monitoring, we can control the misuse of this procedure.

Sushma: I think if we legalise commercial surrogacy, there is a risk of people trading their body for money.

Rohit: I am surprised it’s not legal. I mean if right agreements are made, yes, surrogacy should be legal.

Mona Sherpa
Women’s Rights Activist & Feminist   

I choose not to make my womb commercial

Would you consider surrogacy as an option?

Jyoti: For me, I would prefer adoption to surrogacy as to me it is not very important to have a child with my own genetic make-up.

Sanup: I would. Having said that, it also depends on my emotions at the given time. It is something that I will have to live with for the rest of my life.

Mona: I would rather adopt a child as surrogacy has a different connotation for me. While I empathise with women who are unable to bear a child, surrogacy further establishes the patriarchal concept that a woman is a good woman only when she becomes a mother. The overly romanticised idea of motherhood, the notion of family to procreate and pressure to continue the patriarchal bloodline; these reasons also compel people to choose surrogacy as an option. If it is just about rearing a child as a family member and being a parent without above mentioned social pressures and wishes, adoption could be an option and there are many children who need a family.

Gyanendra: Currently I would not because it is not yet legal in Nepal. Rather, I would go for adoption.

Sushma: I don’t think so. I have heard from a lot of people including my mother that motherhood is the most beautiful phase in a woman’s life. So, I would not consider surrogacy as an option willingly. If I am unfortunately unable to give birth, adoption would be my choice.

Rohit:  Well, I have never thought of it that way but I don’t find anything wrong with it.

Gyanendra Malla
Cricketer & Vice-Captain of the National Cricket Team

I feel infertility greatly depends on our lifestyle – what you eat, how well you sleep, where you live, and other behaviours.

Would you consider being a surrogate mother or a sperm donor?

Sanup: It is very difficult for me to answer this right now as I am not in that situation.

Mona: Being a surrogate mother holds several responsibilities. Surrogate mothers have to remain emotionally detached with the baby growing in her womb and also be ready to face any possible risks associated with pregnancy. I choose not to make my womb commercial.

Gyanendra:  I would not do it as it is illegal and it can bring complications. However if it’s legalised someday, I wouldn’t mind helping someone by donating my sperm.

Sushma: I would never. I don’t think I would be able to tolerate the pain of giving away my child to someone else. I am sure I would be selfish in the end.

Rohit: I would do anything that would bring a smile to a family, so I wouldn’t mind being a sperm donor.

Sushma Karki
Youtuber

If I am unfortunately unable to give birth, adoption would be my choice.

Why do you think infertility is on the rise?

Jyoti: Infertility is on the rise for mainly the following reasons: Early indulgence in sex, having multiple partners and maintaining poor hygiene may lead to STDs which is the major cause of infertility. In addition, unsafe abortions which are also on the rise can lead to infertility. Another reason for infertility rise is the change in the social dynamics of our society, namely late marriages due to people prioritising their careers over family. Smoking and alcohol consumption also contribute to infertility.

Sanup: The reason behind this may be living standards as things now are completely different than what it used to be. Women have their own professional lives which makes them deprived of rest. It could also be anatomy. But most importantly, I think it is eating habits as we cannot eat food prepared at home every time due to our busy professional life.

Mona: Concrete scientific studies are required to provide authentic data and claim on the rise of infertility. Some global studies have claimed there is a rise in infertility rate, however its exact prevalence in Nepal is not confirmed yet. There could be several reasons like pressure or dream of materialistic prosperous life dragging individuals to Sisyphean lifestyle, excessive use of pesticides and unhealthy food habits, medical, hormonal and other health issues. This needs an authentic study to be confirmed as the reasons vary.

Gyanendra: Nowadays the topic of infertility is more highlighted in the news than before. I feel this used to exist for a long time but we did not speak much about it.  Personally, I feel infertility greatly depends on our lifestyle – what you eat, how well you sleep, where you live, and other behaviours.

Sushma: There may be several reasons. Medical condition, hormonal imbalance and lifestyle have a profound effect on fertility.  However, in many cultures, it is still considered as a “defect in a woman.” But, we need to highlight that infertility exists in both men and women.

Rohit: More than the reason behind infertility, I think people should first begin talking about it freely. Once we can openly talk about this topic, we can then discuss the different factors causing it, create awareness and come up with solutions.

Rohit Tiwari
CEO & Co-founder, Foodmario 

I am surprised it’s not legal. I mean if right agreements are made, yes, surrogacy should be legal.