Indian Surrogacy Biomarkets: An Introduction

  • Sheela Saravanan


By 2009–10, India had become one of the most popular destinations for third-party childbearing due to the lax surrogacy laws, high quality medical facilities, qualified English-speaking doctors and a surplus of women willing to offer their reproductive capacity for money. Stories of surrogacy as bane and boon were rife in the newspapers across the globe. There were success stories of couples with their children on one hand, and cases of exploitation on the other. With several unregistered clinics operating in India, the exact number of clinics or number of babies born were unknown. It was estimated that this was a huge profit-making industry with a business of a €445 million returns. Having lived in India for 25 years of my life, inequalities were not a new phenomenon to me, but nothing had prepared me for the structural inequalities and extreme injustice that I was about to witness as a researcher studying social construction of commercial surrogacy practices in India. The entrepreneurs who flourish in the surrogacy transactions include medical practitioners, agents, hotels, commuting services, landlords of the accommodation, lunch providers for surrogate mothers and many other small entrepreneurs. However, the biggest profiteers among all these are the owners of the fertility clinics. They are profit-making institutions that aim to make surrogate mothers more bio-available than other clinics in the competitive market. They became more competitive on the basis of who could provide the precise service preferred by the intended parents. Eventually, I was drawn into the depths of the lives of the surrogate mothers and the intended parents. I completed my field work in 2010, with a short documentary film ‘Anonymous Mother’ based on the surrogate mother’s narratives and have kept contact with most surrogate mothers.


Surrogacy farming Inequalities Biomarkets Commodification of children Hindu epics Transnational feminism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, South Asia InstituteHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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