The Indian Parliament has approved two bills regulating fertility treatment and surrogacy practices in the country.
The legislation aims to prevent sex selection and exploitation of surrogates, as well as to create national and state regulatory boards and registries.
Health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: 'Many such ART [assisted reproductive technology] clinics have been running in the country without regulation. A need was felt for regulation of such clinics as there are implications on the health of those who undertake the procedure. If there is no regulation, the unethical practices will increase.'
The Lok Sabha (the lower house of India's parliament) approved the Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill 2021 before upper house the Rajya Sabha gave its approval. Conversely, The Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2020 was approved by the upper house with amendments put forward by a select committee and will now go back to the Lok Sabha for approval.
The proposed national ART Board will ensure a minimum standard of infrastructure, equipment, and personnel at fertility clinics, as well as seeking punishment for individuals practising sex selection, the sale of human embryos or gametes and any other violation of the law.
In the surrogacy bill, the rights of surrogates will be protected by new proposals to increase their insurance cover from 16 to 36 months. The bill also aims to prohibit commercial surrogacy in favour of altruistic surrogacy and will permit widows and divorced women to have children via surrogate.
However, some have criticised the legislation for not being explicit enough about the implications for anyone wanting to access ART who is not in a married couple.
'The government should ensure that single parents and the LGBTQIA+ communities must not be excluded,' said Professor Pankaj Talwar, head of medical services at Birla Fertility and IVF in Kolkata.
'We must call upon our elected representatives to be more compassionate to all aspiring parents regardless of their marital status and identities,' he added.