Author uncovers India’s surrogacy problem in new novel
The novel follows social worker Simran Singh as she comes across an abandoned newly-born girl, whose adoptive parents have mysteriously died, and whose surrogate mother has long since disappeared.
As Simran delves into the story of the child’s birth, she uncovers the startlingly dark and highly dangerous side of private surrogacy practices within India.
Surrogacy contracts are usually private and unregulated, Desai explains in a recent BBC4 interview.
As a result, surrogates have very few rights and are at risk of exploitation.
Although fictional, the book describes the very real and serious health risks that many Indian surrogates face.
Many are encouraged to have more pregnancies than their natural cycle permits. Excess use of fertility drugs risks long-term damage to the surrogate’s body and ovaries.
In one surrogacy case, Desai recalls a mother who “was forced to carry four embryos in her womb out of which the healthiest one was allowed to live and the rest were removed during pregnancy”.
Caesareans are commonly used in order to time the birth of the baby with the arrival of the commissioning parents.
Last month a surrogate mother suffered from convulsions during a routine check-up. An emergency caesarean was carried out in order to ensure the safety of the baby. The mother later died.
About 25,000 babies are born through surrogacy in India every year, in an industry worth $2 billion, Desai reports in The Guardian. Over half of these are “commissioned” by overseas Western couples.
“India is becoming a baby factory,” Desai claims in an interview with The Times of India. ”Rich people in the country can afford designer babies now.”
Women who offer themselves for surrogacy usually come from relatively poor and deprived backgrounds, and are in desperate need of money to support their families.
Although draft laws regulating the practice of surrogacy and IVF treatment were drawn up two years ago, they are still awaiting government approval.
Origins of Love is the second instalment of a trilogy by Desai. Her first novel, Witness the Night, received the 2010 Costa First Novel Award for its controversial subject of female foeticide in India.