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Indian surrogacy is a hot media topic, with several stories over the past week about couples being stuck in India waiting for British passports for their biological children. As far as we are concerned, this isn’t really news – it is the shared experience of every British parent who has had a child through surrogacy in India, and something we deal with on a daily basis.
A surrogacy industry has grown rapidly in India over the past few years, attracting Western intended parents with limited surrogacy options at home. Although the Indian parliament is considering introducing Indian surrogacy laws (one feature of the proposed Bill being to restrict surrogacy for foreign parents), there is widespread doubt about when or if these laws will ever be passed. With no law to regulate Indian surrogacy as things stand, a profitable surrogacy market has sprung up. Clinics rely on Indian contract law to draw up binding agreements between surrogates and intended parents, and registrars facilitate naming intended parents on Indian birth certificates. All together, it adds up to an affordable but unregulated way of having a child for infertile and gay couples.
But Indian surrogacy is not as simple as it seems for British intended parents. UK law says that the surrogate is the mother of the child and, if she is married, her husband is the father, and these rules apply no matter where in the world the child is conceived. In practice this means that getting named on an Indian birth certificate is false comfort, since the Indian birth certificate will not be recognised for any UK legal purposes.
Getting home is just the first hurdle. Most children born to British parents through surrogacy in India are born ‘stateless’ – they have no nationality anywhere in the world – because of the mismatched laws on parenthood. British parents have to apply to the Home Office for their child to be registered as a British citizen on a discretionary basis. Since the process takes many months, parents must routinely be prepared for a long stay in a foreign country with their newborn child.
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Article: 7th June by Natalie Gamble Associates.