News

Earthquakes lead to boom in Nepal’s unregulated surrogacy industry

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h3302 (Published 17 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h3302

Booming surrogacy in aftermath of Nepal's earthquake: truth or overreaction?

The author correctly highlights the important issue of surrogacy in the earthquake that struck Nepal.(1) However important the issue is, I argue that the author's claim might be just an overreaction of the issue in the wake of the earthquake.

The story of surrogacy surfaced first in 2011 in Nepal, when a case was filed in District Court in Kathmandu over the property rights of children born from surrogate mothers.(2) The court ruled out the cases saying the children is equally entitled to inherit parental property.

After the Earthquake on 25th May 2015, which shook the Himalayan nation taking toll of 8600 lives, and resulting in 17000 injuries, the issue of surrogacy was raised to the headlines of a number of international newspapers. Time wrote that the Government of Israel, in aso called "humanitarian rescue", air lifted 26 newborn babies from Nepal's capital "Kathmandu", leaving behind their biological mothers in a dire situation.(3) The babies were born through surrogate mothers, mostly of Indian origin. Parents of these babies were Israeli gay men, for whom, surrogacy is prohibited under the law in their home country. The law in Israel only allows married heterosexual couples to hire surrogate mothers. Mostly, India was the destination of the majority of Israeli surrogacy-aspirants; however, after the law enforcement in 2013 by the Government of India, surrogacy become illegal for gay men and heterosexual couples married less than two years to be involved in. (4)

Quickly the surrogacy industry shifted to its northern neighbour Nepal, which being a relatively easy and cheap destination for Israelis to travel gained a quick expansion to several hospitals in its capital. While most of the surrogate mothers arrived here from India, there were reports before the earthquake that Nepali women are also increasingly attracted to surrogacy industry due to its lucrative nature.

In the wake of the earthquake, when many families are uprooted from their houses, women might face increased burden to feed their family and rebuild their collapsed houses. For many families left with no business, surrogacy will be too lucrative not to accept, as surrogacy-providers deliberately target poor families in villages with attractive incentives. Yet, there are no reports locally that women are getting into the surrogacy industry. However conducive the situation seems to be, there is no substantial evidence to foretell a booming of the so called "surrogacy industry".

Correspondence: shivarajmishra@gmail.com

References
1. Howard, S. Earthquakes lead to boom in Nepal’s unregulated surrogacy industry. 2015;350:h3302
2. Ekantipur. Door opens to foreigners for surrogacy. Available from http://www.ekantipur.com/2014/12/04/top-story/door-opens-to-foreigners-f... (accessed June 24,2015)
3. Time. Israel Evacuates Surrogate Babies From Nepal but Leaves the Mothers Behind. Available http://time.com/3838319/israel-nepal-surrogates/ (accessed June 24,2015)
4. NPR-news. Israel Criticized For Leaving Pregnant Surrogates In Nepal. Available from http://www.npr.org/2015/04/30/403231777/israel-criticized-for-leaving-pr... (accessed June 24,2015)

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 June 2015
Shiva Raj Mishra
Master of Public Health Candiate
(1).Nepal Development Society (NEDS),Bharatpur-10, Nepal, (2).University of Western Australia, WA 6009, Australia
Unit 6, 15 Stirling Stirling Hwy, Crawley, Perth, Australia