Does India treat a newborn as commodity?

Kishwar Desai
Kishwar DesaiMay 15, 2016 | 14:28

Does India treat a newborn as commodity?

Babies-on-demand are produced for a variety of reasons - most of them quite unromantic.

More than anything else, it is the look on 72-year-old Daljinder Kaur's face, as she sits holding her newborn child, along with her elderly husband, that creates consternation. You can't really criticise her because within her wrinkles are all the reasons she took this drastic step, and decided to become a mother, beating fragility and age.

Her look reflects a quiet, steely determination which says "I did it". And we know why she did it: why, after two years of painful fertility treatment she produced a baby boy. It was for a substantial inheritance, because as her husband, 79-year-old Mohinder Singh Gill put it, relatives had made sure that as a childless couple they would not get their due share in property worth five crore rupees.


So the costs of creating this baby have been paid for many times over. And the child is already a crorepati even though he might be an orphan by the time he turns 21 and is old enough to know what he, and life, is worth.

The question that his parents may not be around to enjoy that moment is unimportant. As is the question of the quality of life they will enjoy along with this child. In this scenario, children are merely possessions that make other possessions possible. And who are we to raise ethical questions?

And even if the "ethical" lobby is murmuring - does anyone really care?

When I had written my novel Origins of Love four years ago on the big fertility racket that is booming in India it was almost as though I had stepped into a minefield. Doctors are reluctant to admit it, but this is the easiest way ever, to make money. Just plant a fertilised egg into a woman's body and pop! Out comes a readymade child. The child can be designed and created in any way that the parents desire. And therein lies the danger.

There are a few restrictions now on surrogacy.  

The fact that even a 72-year-old could have a child in Punjab purely to win a property dispute makes one wonder about parenthood.

In Origins of Love I had wanted to question the popular notion whether people who are desperate to have children do so because of a romantic desire - that they want a child with the partner they adore. However, the thesis collapsed quickly. Because babies-on-demand are produced for a variety of reasons - most of them quite unromantic. My book could even have been called Origins of (Self) Love.

And often those mostly to blame really were the doctors.

Or you can call it pragmatism, just as in the case of Daljinder. Perhaps her doctors were equally pragmatic.

So it is no surprise that when my book came out, we had heated discussions about designer babies and the use of women's bodies and wombs for surrogacy. There were many promises that the Assisted Reproduction Technology Bill was about to be changed. Some steps were taken subsequently and there are a few restrictions now on surrogacy - especially on parents who parachute into India to fly back with a child.


But larger issues over the use of ART to create children still remain. Pushing fertility is fine as it deals with the bodies of women. And the resultant child is just a commodity. What happens when this product grows up? Has Daljinder, who has waited over 50 years to be a mother, been allowed to think about that?

Last updated: August 06, 2018 | 19:32
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