Monday, June 16, 2014

Commercial Surrogacy Is Inherently Unethical

Anant Phadke*

Surrogacy, especially commercial surrogacy has been gaining ground rapidly in India. Though some doctors and others have been presenting surrogacy, one of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies, as a benevolent gain of modern technology to the childless couples, I would argue that like prostitution, commercial surrogacy is inherently dehumanizing and unethical. Hence my proposition is - like the use of medical technology for sex-determination for sex-selection, commercial surrogacy too should be seen as misuse of medical technology.

This opposition to commercial surrogacy is not from a traditional, moralistic perspective of loyalty to the patriarchal institution of marriage. It is based on differentiating between humane versus commercial or patriarchal sexual, reproductive relations. To make such a distinction, one must answer the following question -
            " if commercialization of various physical and mental capacities is acceptable, if hiring out of teacher’s or doctor’s or mechanic’s capacity to render service to others is not considered a pathology, why should  hiring of sexual and reproductive capacity be considered a pathology?"

            I would like to point out that firstly, the Leftist tradition has made a thorough critique of commoditification of human capacities and has been striving for a society in which this commoditification does not occur anymore. Today, this ‘dream’ seems to be far away. But so is the dream of man-woman equality! Does it mean that we give up our egalitarian, libertarian, humane criteria to assess the existing reality? Secondly, even within the framework of commoditification of various human capacities and activities, we need to make distinction between -
            1) Human activities which are inherently intensely personal, intimate and humanely meaningful only in the context of a particular person/s (sexual relations, child-bearing)
             2) Most other human activities which are inherently social, whose rationale and purpose is not defined in the context of any specific person. For example participation in agricultural or industrial production or activities like teaching or activities like performing arts like dancing.

            Humane sexual relations including sexual intercourse is an activity whose content and purpose is identical for both the partners: co-enjoyment, mutual satisfaction of their certain human need. This co-enjoyment, mutual satisfaction occurs generally but not necessarily within the framework of love relationship. Dehumanization occurs when this purpose is changed into giving a sexual service to somebody or receiving it. This service can be due to duty or compulsion borne out of patriarchal or other hierarchical relations or in exchange of some payment or other material gain.

Child bearing is also a similar, intensely personal, intimate process and can be humane only in relation with specific individual with whom one is in love with. However, traditionally many a times it has been a patriarchal service rendered by the woman to her husband/his family. Now in today’s fully commercial, exploitative, patriarchal world, sometimes poor women hire out their reproductive system (not only the uterus) as a service to those infertile couples who are ready to pay for it. In the traditional family structure, even if the relations with the husband may not be humane, the baby stays with the mother who can enjoy rearing her baby. In commercial surrogacy the mother is deprived of this solace!  

Commercial surrogacy is the specific form of dehumanization resulting from the very logic of commercialization of ‘everything under the son’ and the logic of patriarchy. They together convert woman's sexuality and reproductive capacity into a commodity. Admittedly, it is a long way to go to overcome prostitution, ‘sex-wok’ as it has been there for ages. But that does not mean that newer additions of similar de-humanizations are to be accepted. It may be pointed out that if commercial surrogacy is accepted, there can not be an opposition to selling of babies by parents. 

            When a woman becomes pregnant out of choice, she is ready to undergo various health risks of pregnancy, discomforts, and restrictions for nine months as well as the risks and ordeal of labour only because she wants to undergo the experience and the joy of mothering. Commercial surrogacy converts this intimately personal process into an impersonal market relationship, in which a poor woman agrees to bear a child for somebody else to earn some money! Even if some women say that they are happy in rendering this service does not make it less dehumanizing just as slavery does not stop being inhuman just because some slaves see their salvation, pleasure in rendering slave service.
 It may be noted that commercial surrogacy is not allowed in many developed countries –Germany, France, Japan, Canada and so on and many states in the US. However couples from these countries come here to hire the reproductive capacities of poor women in India.
Like organ transplants, should surrogacy be allowed as a totally voluntary option with no financial/material incentive? No, at least not today when there is such gross inequality and patriarchy. Today when surrogacy occurs within a family, it is far more probable that there would be exploitation of the woman in some form.

Commercial surrogacy is certainly not a progressive step. Doctors should not use their capacities and new technologies for the purpose of such a dehumanising practice. We look forward to an era when this shameful service would wither away and when medical technology would be harnessed only to foster human dignity and happiness for all. Till this occurs, the minimum interests of the poor women who 'opt' for offering their bodies for surrogacy have to be protected. In this spirit, we can suggest specific improvements in the various provisions in the legislation. But there has to be a clear, unambiguous commitment to abolish surrogacy.   

*  8, Ameya Ashish co-op. Hsg. Society, Kokan Express Hotel lane, Kothrud, Pune 411038,, 020 25460038, 09423531478

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pabnava to Natham : Whatever Happened to the Struggle for Annihilation of Caste !

- Subhash Gatade

..the world owes much to rebels who would dare to argue in the face of the pontiff and insist that he is not infallible. I do not care about the credit which every progressive society must give to its rebels. I shall be satisfied if I make the Hindus realize that they are the sick men of India, and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians.
B. R. AMBEDKAR, Annihilation of Caste,

Pabnava : Not Just the Name of a Village
Dalit residents of Pabnava, district Kaithal, Haryana would never be able to forget this year's birth anniversary of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. The intervening nights of April 13 and 14 would forever remain itched on their minds. They still shiver when they remember how a four hundred strong mob of the local landowning community called Ror Marathas, armed with spears, batons and other sharp edged weapons, attacked the basti and ransacked more than 200 houses and left 6 dalits injured. It was supposedly to avenge the 'dishonour' wrought on them by a dalit youth who had dared to marry one of 'their girls'.

Kshama Sawant: The Socialist City Council Member in the Belly of the Beast

- Josh Eidelson

On November 5, Seattle voters made Occupy activist and economics professor Kshama Sawant the first avowed socialist city council member in their city’s history – and the country’s first big city socialist council member in decades. The “Socialist Alternative” insurgent, has unseated four-term incumbent Richard Conlin, with the latest batch of mail-in ballots nearly tripling Sawant’s lead to 1,148 votes. 

The Sawant victory comes exactly 97 years after Seattle voters put their first outspoken radical into office, Seattle School Board member Anna Louise Strong. Strong would write about the Wobblies, oppose U.S. entry into World War I and eventually end her days in China, where she was on friendly terms with Mao Zedong.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Protest and a Candle Light March in Wake of Badayun Rape-Murder

Stree Mukti Sangathan organized a protest and later a Candle light march in wake of Badayun rape-murder at Subhash Chauraha,Civil Lines,Allahabad at 3:30 pm on 30th May, 2014.


Sandhya Navodita( Progressive Writer's Association),Utpala Shukla (Ghareloo Kaamgar Mahilaa Sangathan),Imtiyaz (Nari Suraksha Samiti)Harish Pandey ji ,SadaShiv ji, Dr. S.P Singh and Subhaash Rathi ji were among the many others who attended and spoke about the need of the hour,"rape-culture",gender inequality in other spheres of life and its relation to rape and the complicated intersections of patriarchy and capitalism.Vibha Srivastava,from Delhi spoke about how not much has changed regarding women's safety on roads in Delhi,after the 16th Dec bus gang rape of Nirbhaya.She also emphasised that an equal society can not have TWO DIFFERENT SETS of " achchhe sanskars" for girls/boys or men/women. Richa Singh thanked the people who took out time to participate and urged the youth to come forward to make a violence free society. Dr. Alok Misraand Suchhit Kapoor extended their co-operation in spite of their absence /brief attendance.
A memorandum to the CM was signed by all present. 

Statement Against the Abduction, Rape and Killing of Two Sister's in Badayun, UP

Stree Mukti Sangathan strongly condemns the heinous crime perpetrated on two young women who were sisters from a Dalit family in Badayun, U.P. Once again two young lives have been sniffed out after being subjected to rape and brutal violence. The State and the government bear the principal responsibility but the story does not end there. The roots of such violence and brutality lie deep in our culture and social structure. We as Indians must hang our heads in shame that such incidents continue to happen in our land. But, more than that, we must resolve to fight for justice for the victims and punish the perpetrators of the crime. We must resolve to fight the longer fight to rid our society from violence against women and intensify our struggle for liberty and freedom.