Fair-skinned Indian women paid $1600 more to be surrogates than others
Couples seeking surrogate mothers in India are willing to pay more for women of similar castes or with fair skin, according to a women’s health charity. Despite the fact that surrogates don’t contribute any DNA to the child, some caste-conscious Hindus consider it “caste pollution.”
Fair-skinned high caste women are being paid $1,600 more to be surrogate mothers than their dark-skinned, low-caste rivals, an Indian study has found.
India has become a medical tourism destination for fertility treatment and surrogacy among both childless Western and Indian couples from around the world.
But according to researchers surrogate mothers still face discrimination over their caste, skin color and attractiveness despite the fact that the fetus they carry has none of their own genetic material.
The survey by the women’s health charity SAMA, carried out in-depth interviews with surrogate mothers, agents who commission them on behalf of couples suffering fertility problems, and gynecologists.
They found that couples commonly insisted that the woman who carries their child should be beautiful, from their own or similar caste, and have fair skin – similar requirements to those expressed in India’s notorious newspaper advertisements for brides and grooms.
Researchers said the demands reflect wider caste prejudices in India and among the Indian diaspora.
“Parents want someone from the same background in terms of caste and religion. When they are asked ‘how does it matter?’ they don’t explain but they are willing to pay extra – up to one lakh rupees ($1864) more. It’s caste or religious prejudice and notional ideas or what is acceptable and unacceptable,” said Deepa, program coordinator at SAMA.
She said that while the surrogate mother merely gestates the fetus and does not contribute any of her own DNA to it, commissioning parents still think of her as a mother who contributes her “body and blood” to nourishing their child. For caste conscious Hindus this could be regarded as ‘caste pollution.’
Dr Naina Patel, who runs one of India’s most successful fertility clinics in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, said she does receive requests for surrogates to be of specific castes or religions, but once parents understand the surrogate’s background will not influence the appearance of their child they usually accept any healthy and stable woman.
“All they want is a healthy child, they want a healthy surrogate, someone who is mentally sound and not unhappy. Maybe initially they say about caste or religion and if there’s an option five per cent will say ‘give us Hindu, but if not we’re ready for anything,’” she said.