New Delhi: Adoption may get a leg-up in India following the passage of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016, by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, banning commercial renting of wombs and allowing only “altruistic surrogacy".

According to the Bill, all except legally married Indian couples who otherwise would not be able to conceive will be barred from opting for surrogacy. Besides, only a close relative can become a surrogate for “medically proven infertile" couples.

Experts claim that the stringent rules and regulations may encourage couples to turn toward adoption. “As surrogacy services were easily available, people used to hire a surrogate for having a baby, no matter if they were married, single or same sex couples," said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research.

“As commercial surrogacy will not be an option in the near future, intended single parents or couples willing to have a baby will look at adoption to fulfil the need. This may possibly boost the dismal adoption figures in India," she said.

The draft law has a provision for a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of 10 lakh for violations such as abandoning a child and choosing commercial surrogacy. “The decision is big and is in the interest of all women and children. There were reports of surrogates being harassed because of the dearth of regulation. In the Bill, altruistic surrogacy is legalized and commercial surrogacy is criminalized. We need to see with time how this will impact the adoption scenario in country, which is also a noble cause," said Balram Bhargava, secretary, department of health research, ministry of health and family welfare.

From April 2017 to March 2018 only 3,276 children were adopted in India, according to the Central Adoption Resource Authority, ministry of women and child development.

Health minister J.P. Nadda termed the proposed legislation “historic". “The aim of the bill was to stop commercial surrogacy but at the same time save families by allowing them to have children by using modern science. Only defined mother and family can avail of surrogacy and the same was not permitted for live-in partners or single parents," Nadda said.

The Bill comes against the backdrop of reports of unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets around intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes were reported.

The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha after an hour-long debate amid noisy protests by Congress and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) members. Supriya Sule of the Congress tweeted, “Surrogacy is a moral, social and emotional issue concerning parenthood. There must not be a 5-year clause to prove infertility, when science and technology has progressed so much, why should the couple wait for that long a while to have a child through surrogacy?" “Bill must mould itself in a more modern shape by considering cases of potential single parents, widows, same sex couples who want to have children as well, especially after recent progressive judgments," she said.

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