Nepal was on the process of being a surrogacy hub. Especially so given the recent banning of surrogacy in India and countries like Israel placing some restriction on same-sex couples to access surrogacy service within the country. Such restrictions might have forced the couples to find alternatives, thus guiding their way to Nepal. They also deserve the credit to popularizing the service in Nepal by being on the international media.
I was impressed by the decision of the cabinet last year to allow permission to hospitals to provide surrogacy service if the couples seeking service were foreigners. Accepting surrogacy to some extent was itself a milestone for liberal Nepal. One could not progress without an open minded society. More specifically, a body is a person’s property. What one does to one’s body and how one likes to live is a basic human right if it doesn’t curtail the freedom of others. The idea of “my body- my decision” is enough to allow a citizen to practice surrogacy.
Surrogacy is a noble act as the job leads to the existence to life. And I often wonder why bringing a life in this world based on voluntary consent between adult human beings in their rational mind is criminalized in so many countries?
Providing surrogacy service is a job in which a woman could rent her womb for the time the zygote is matured into a baby and is delivered. If an individual wants to offer such service than why are other intellectuals wasting their time curtailing such freedom? There is one argument that prevails in the media that the surrogate mother is underpaid. But one also has to consider the payment amount in relative terms. According to Republica, a surrogate mother is paid $7000 (for the nine months). This is roughly equivalent to NRs. 2500 per day. This might be a lucrative sum for many women who opt for it. During the time of pregnancy, the biological parents take every measure to keep the surrogate mother healthy and fit as the mother’s health determines the health of the baby too.
The important point is that it is up to individual to decide and bargain the price of any service and choose to get into it at accepted terms. If the providers of the service think they are underpaid, they can very well negotiate or not choose to undertake the task at all.
Despite surrogacy being a matter of personal choice – a choice about how to use one’s body in a fully conscious state of mind, the Supreme Court of Nepal has ordered an interim order to halt surrogacy service for Nepalese couples. This was followed by cabinet meeting banning surrogacy altogether. This is contradictory to the right to employment as stated in the constitution which states that every citizen will have right to choose their own employment. The possible rationale behind the decision might be the protection of the surrogate mother from exploitation. However, in a society like ours where Rule of Law enforcement is rather weak, banning something simply pushes it in the informal sector. This makes the women (who the law wants to protect from exploitation) rather vulnerable when they are now performing it illegally.
When women are accepting the principle of surrogacy and are getting voluntarily engaged in an exchange, there is no reason for a third party to intervene as long as their basic rights guaranteed to them by the law is upheld.