Rani had nothing to mortgage except her womb. Lenders and pawn brokers were harassing her mercilessly to collect the money they had lent her. Even the cooking vessels had reached the pawn brokers’ shops to get petty amounts to pay the interests and manage the situations temporarily. But how long could she manage? She had tapped all the doors for some amount. All her attempts were in vain. It was then that someone gave her the idea that renting her womb would fetch her some money that would rescue her from her tortures for the time being.
The mean tips she got by working in houses as a maid could provide her not even a single meal. Cruel hunger was strangling her family. She could not bear the sight of her bony children squeezed by merciless hunger. Without any other source of survival, Rani decided to lend her womb for rent. She had to feed her handicapped husband and two children.
Rani went to the ‘Malayala Manorama’ office which had published an add asking for ‘wombs for rent’. She accepted to undertake any agreement to find a relief from her torture at least for some days.
The booming womb-renting market in India
Rent-a- womb market is flourishing in India now. For the troubles that an Indian surrogate mother undergoes, she is paid an amount for which she is badly in need of. But who cares about justice or ethics in this kind of market? The brokers or agents swindle a considerable amount as commission and give only a partial amount to the surrogate mother.
“My husband met with an accident and has become handicapped,” says Rani. “I have to bear the entire burden. We are not able to eat even a single meal per day with the meager income that I get from working in houses as maid. That is why I have decided to rent out my womb.” Tears roll down her cheeks.
Surrogate motherhood has become the growing business added to the long list of roles being outsourced to India, where the service of renting a womb is by far cheaper than Europe or the USA.
Exploitation of surrogacy by agents or mediators
1) “Fertility tourism” has become the new mantra of the vulture agents to attract foreign tourists. They are exploiting India as the epicenter of surrogacy with the reproductive segment of the Indian medical tourism.
2) The cheap surrogate services are exploited by these agents who earn a considerable amount from both sides— a pretty amount from the surrogate mother for his mediation and from the beneficiary (the childless couple) another huge amount for his ‘great service’. The childless couple compares the cost in their country with that in India and is ready to offer any amount. In the U.S. a childless couple would have to spend anything up to $60,000; but in India, it can be done for just $10,000 to $12,000. The unfortunate surrogate mother is paid anything between $2,000 and $5,000, which itself is a fortune for her as the annual per capita income in her country is even less than $500.
3) Voices of conscientious people cannot do anything against this injustice. In spite of many movements against this “commoditization of motherhood”, the agents of this industry survive. They adopt all kinds of unjust means to suppress the voices against their malpractice and exploit the poor people reeling under poverty. Their exploitation is fuelled by the lax governmental regulations and the ignorance of poor people.
4) There are many loopholes in the laws of this country to legalize this kind of commercial surrogacy arrangements. This is done under the guise of altruistic surrogacy that has been termed as ‘women helping women’.
5) Womb renting has become a successful ‘commercial surrogacy’. It is a pity that rights of women and children are bartered away for unjust and meager remunerations. Commercial surrogacy is indirectly leading to many unsolvable problems in the society which are least bothered neither by the people nor by the government. The easy money of this market has spawned womb renting market into a virtual cottage industry in many Indian villages.