The issue of surrogacy and China

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 19, 2017
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A couple play with their two children in Hubei Province in March, 2015. [Photo: Li Chuanping/China Daily]

Debates have emerged in China about surrogacy since the government relaxed family planning rules and allowed certain couples to have a second child. While hiring a womb is legal in several countries, including some states of the United States and neighboring India, it is banned in China.

The issue resurfaced after many Chinese couples planning to have a second child under the new laws came face to face with complex medical challenges due to advanced age, infertility and other factors.

The only ray of hope for such couples is modern scientific techniques. The easiest way is to hire the services of another woman who can bear and deliver the child. But it is not possible under prevalent laws in China. Those having money and means can travel to U.S. and other places to have their wishes granted, but the poor suffer. Also, going to another country for surrogacy is not without legal, financial and emotional consequences.

I am not arguing on the behalf of such people, and it is purely for the government of China to decide this vital issue; I just want to highlight some of the aspects linked with the issue of surrogacy.

To begin with, surrogacy refers to a woman who is paid to carry the child of another couple.

First of all, the woman should willingly to become a surrogate. Her rights should be legally protected. If money is involved then she should get a fair return for the service. However, things rarely go along smoothly. The reason is that most of the women offering to become surrogates are poor.

Several complicated issues crop up during the period leading up to the delivery of the child, because surrogacy is increasingly becoming commercial. Various groups try to leverage the market and exploit both the parents who would like to hire a woman to bear the child and the females willing to play the role of a surrogate mother.

India offers an important case study, which is called the surrogacy hub of the world due to the practice of commercial surrogacy. It is thriving primarily due to the low cost involved, as women from impoverished backgrounds can be easily hired for this purpose. However, India is getting tougher and planning to ban commercial surrogacy.

Having a comprehensive legalized system to channelize surrogacy is the key to its success. It should be facilitated in such a way that the rights of intending parents, surrogates and children are safeguarded. The role of companies and middlemen should be strictly monitored, as there is always a chance that illiterate women will be tricked and exploited for a pittance.

The woman hired to bear the child is a kind of mother. A woman may not be emotionally strong enough to withstand the trauma when suddenly deprived of the child she delivered. Such women need counselling and special care in addition to adequate payment for the service.

The primary reason for exploitation is an absence of laws. The legal system should also address issues arising out of death, separation, divorce and bankruptcy of intending parents. The issue of citizenship of the child should be adequately addressed in laws dealing with surrogacy.

China can learn from several nations that have allowed it, and even from those that are not yet ready to allow surrogacy for various reasons. The issues of commercial and altruistic surrogacy should also be kept in sight. Currently, some countries only allow altruistic surrogacy. Making it commercial would need extra care to protect the rights of all parties.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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