New Delhi: The five-year waiting period for couples to avail surrogacy is not only a breach of reproductive rights but also impairs chances of wannabe parents who marry late and want to go for assisted techniques, a parliamentary committee has said.
The panel, which examined the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, termed the five-year waiting period as "arbitrary, discriminatory and without any definable logic" and recommended that the period be reduced to one year.
It said that in the present context of late marriages (late 30s and 40s) the requirement of five-year wait would adversely affect the quality of gametes and thus impair chances of couples attaining parenthood through surrogacy.
Also, in circumstances where the need for surrogacy is absolute due to medical reasons like absence of uterus, destruction of uterus because of cancers, fibroids among others, even the prescribed one year period should be waived, the committee said in its report.
"Besides, this time bar of five years plausibly violates the right to reproductive autonomy, and an individual's right to exercise his choice," the committee said. It also suggested that the definition of infertility be made commensurate with the one given by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The surrogacy bill was passed in the monsoon session of Parliament last year and was referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
The WHO terms infertility as "a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse".
Though the definition of infertility is limited to failure to conceive only, there are other medical conditions for which surrogacy is availed.
For example, TB destroys thousands of uterus irreversibly. A large number of girls are born without a uterus or a very underdeveloped uterus. A large number of women have repeated miscarriages. There are many women who have their uterus removed because of cancer or because of many tumours.
"The fundamental right to reproduce to have a child is a part of a person's personal domain and fixing a period of five years will only cause breach of his/her reproductive rights and delayed or deferred parenthood," the committee said.
In India, infertility is considered a social stigma and infertile couples go through a lot of agony and trauma. Since, conception has many interplay functions, a five-year time bar would add to the misery of already distressed couples.