Globalisation is when businesses compete to get to an international level of trade. One particular type of business which is now believed to be functioning globally is surrogacy. Surrogacy is “a situation in which the woman who gives birth to a child is different from the woman intending to raise the child as her own”. This means that a couple may want a child but may not be able to conceive naturally, so they pay another woman to carry a baby for them. Globalisation and surrogacy have crossed paths in the last few decades, as couples are turning more often to countries where the cost of a surrogate is cheaper. Unfortunately, because surrogacy is now on a global scale, it has become complicated and people are forgetting that the main reason for surrogacy is for a couple to have a child and start their family.
Yasmine Ergas says that people cross borders for many different reasons, with one of the main ones being to have children. Reproductive tourism - another term for surrogacy - is where couples travel from their own country to another to get assistance with infertility. Sadly, for people nowadays, “infertility and involuntary childlessness affect many of the world’s child-bearing population”. Due to this fact, more people are choosing surrogacy as a way to have children because it gives them the option to have a child who can be genetically related to them. Brock Patton explains the typical scenario relating to surrogacy. He says that the chosen surrogate will be “… inseminated with sperm from the man of the contracting couple”. After the surrogate gives birth, she will then turn the baby over to the contracting couple, and they become the lawful parents of the child.
Caitlin Pryce says that because surrogacy is becoming such a popular phenomenon, “the insufficiency of surrogacy laws, or altogether lack of regulation, has created international confusion”. The main problem relating to surrogacy and the law is that the child which is being born by surrogate has to obtain a citizenship to the country their parents are from. Pryce says that citizenship can be given under two values: “… the right of the soil [and] … right of the blood”. Essentially, this means that anyone born within a country’s borders are automatically a citizen, or if someone is of the same bloodline of a citizen of that country, then they can get citizenship. This means countries often struggle with the idea of surrogacy because the baby is sometimes not genetically related to its ‘parents’. Because the industry is now operating on a global scale, countries need to be open to the fact that couples can have children who are not genetically related to them. However, through surrogacy companies, the child technically belongs to the ‘parents’ because of the contract signed with the surrogate.
India is the most popular country to find women who are ready to give up their bodies to carry another person’s child. “Transnational surrogacy in India exploded off the blocks when the Indian state commercialised surrogacy in 2002”, and though the United State was originally the place to go to find a surrogate, India quickly took over the market because of how cheap they were. Through the process of globalisation, India quickly changed their policies which helped alter their position in the global market, so they were able to compete against other countries. In the U.S. it would cost between $80,000-$100,000 to conceive a child through surrogacy, whereas in India is cost $35,000-$45,000. In India, most people earn very little per year, but for women who opt to be surrogates, they can earn around US$3,000-$6,000, according to George Palattiyil, Eric Blyth, Dina Sidhva and Geeta Balakrishnan. India has emerged as the leading country for surrogates, as they are cheap, and due to their culture, the women do not drink, smoke or consume drugs. This means that couples who want to have a child through surrogacy can be confident the child will not develop any abnormalities which could be caused by smoking, drinking of drug use. The main appeal of India for surrogacy is that they are significantly cheaper than other countries, and their culture ensures that the women do not participate in dangerous substances, which means babies will be born healthy.
Because the surrogacy industry has spread across the world and now operates through globalisation, it has been getting increased attention. This means that different opinions have been formed relating to the women undertaking the job of being a surrogate, as well as the couples who commission someone to carry their child. The first opinion which has been formed around surrogacy is a feminist view. Kristin Lozanski and Irene Shankar claim that women in Third World countries – therefore, surrogate women in India – are viewed as “docile, overworked, overly fertile, and perpetual victims”. This has caused feminists to view themselves as “saviours to their ostensibly unfortunate sisters in the south”. What this means is that feminists are advocating for women who they believe are being forced to become surrogates due to their economic situations. Deepika Bahri supports this claim in relation to Indian women, by stating that the women are seen as “the perfect surrogate” because they are “cheap, docile, selfless and nurturing”, meaning that they become the perfect womb to grow a child in. However, many of these women choose to become surrogates, and Brock Patton examines a few reasons why. The first reason is that “the potential surrogate may simply enjoy pregnancy”. Another reason Indian woman may choose to become surrogates is because it allows them “to connect … domestic life with paid employment”. The final reason is that the woman may enjoy “helping an infertile couple achieve their dream of having a child”. What is clear from these opinions, and Patton’s examples is that some believe women are being forced to become surrogates, but often women choose this path due to a number of reasons. Because of globalisation and the controversial nature of surrogacy, feminists now claim that surrogates are forced into labour because of their quiet and selfless natures, when in reality, these women often choose the work themselves because it is more favourable than other jobs.
The other main opinion about surrogacy, is that it is in line with sex work. According to Palattiyil, Blyth, Sidhva and Balakrishnan, critics of surrogacy “have decried it as womb renting and akin to prostitution”. Rudrappa supports this claim of critics, as she says that “transnational surrogacy has superficial similarities to other intimate industries, namely, sex tourism”. It is important to note from these claims that surrogacy does share similar characteristics to the sex industry on a broad scale. Both involve the moving of clients/workers around the world for the sole reason of using someone’s body. However, while this brief analysis makes it seem as though surrogacy is in line with sex trafficking, the core details show how different the industries are. While the sex industry involves workers changing locations and offering their bodies, the way they get their pay is by offering clients sex. In regard to surrogacy, the client often goes to the surrogate, and while the surrogate is using their body to obtain money, they are doing so with the end result being that the client walks away with a child, not with sexual satisfaction. What is clear from this breakdown, is that globalisation has promoted surrogacy to the point where those who do not agree with the idea of surrogacy are trying to claim it is in line with prostitution, when in reality is it vastly different, as was shown above.
The article began by exploring the details of surrogacy, before looking into laws relating to surrogacy, focusing on the issues between surrogacy and citizenship. The piece then examined surrogacy and its popularity in India, to provide background information of the business, and also show how through globalisation, India has been able to emerge and take over the surrogacy market. The piece then looked into different attitudes towards surrogacy, and how its global spread has caused opinions to change in relation to it. The first example helped to show that the extreme promotion of surrogacy has caused feminists to view these women as lowly, when in reality a lot of these women choose to work as surrogates because they enjoy the money and it means they can still work at home. The second example demonstrated how skewered some people’s view have become of surrogacy, as even though it does involve ‘purchasing’ a woman’s body, the end result is that a couple will get to begin a family through the birth of their child by a surrogate. Overall, the article showed that due to the popularity of surrogacy through globalisation, some people’s views of the practise are becoming distorted, and they have become confused as to the meaning and point of surrogacy, which is for a willing woman to offer her womb to a couple who wishes to have a child.
NOTE: This article is written based on an assignment I did for my university unit Gender, Globalisation and Development