There is a booming transnational surrogacy industry in India,which some experts see as women finding more fulfilling ways to earn money, and others see as exploitation. Sharmila Rudrappa, a sociologist at the Center for Asian American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin reports, recently published her findings based on interviews with 70 surrogate mothers in Bangalore. What she found were not poor or desperate women doing it for the money, but a far more layered reasoning behind a surprising trend on the subcontinent.
The Indian Council for Medical Research says that profits will reach $6 billion in the next few years, as more and more women choose to carry babies for families who are unable to, earning between $35,000-40,000 per baby. It is considered to go hand-in-hand with having worked in the garment industry, at some point these women leave the factory and find that either selling their eggs (another growing industry) or becoming a surrogate is a viable option for earning a living.
What the interviews revealed is that most of the women had worked in the garment industry and experienced the grueling work conditions, low pay, and long list of side effects for that type of work. In sharp contrast, they described surrogacy as a blessing for its good pay and non-factory work nature. Despite the fact that hormone injections to increase fertility can be painful and bring their own list of side risky side effects, the women insisted that they could not afford to worry about pain or discomfort and the the gains justified it all. Even the cases where surrogates are required to live in dormitory throughout their pregnancy where they would monitored 24 hours a day by surveillance camera, did not discourage them or cause them to condemn the process.
Beyond the financial benefits of carrying a baby for someone else, the women also reported a great sense of satisfaction when compared to working in the garment industry. Knowing they had both earned money to provide for their own family, as well as helped a family that could not have children on their own, was looked at as a very fulfilling aspect of this physically and mentally complex line of work.
Source: ASA Contexts
Photo: Save the Children / flickr