Thursday 5 November 2015

Dear Indian Government, ICMR, Activists, NGO’s & Foreign Press, STOP TRYING TO SAVE INDIAN WOMEN FROM THEMSELVES!!!!

Dear Indian Government, ICMR, Activists, NGO’s & Foreign Press,

Recently, a friend of mine quoted her mother who grew up in extreme poverty in Portugal: “Wealthy people are always telling poor people how they CAN’T make money.”

This incredibly sage pearl of wisdom made me think of how Indian Surrogate mothers have recently been slammed, persecuted, shamed, pushed down and silenced by people who are trying to swoop in and save them. But what exactly are these self-proclaimed superheroes trying to save Indian surrogates from?

Despite the demeaning way media outlets depict Indian women, surrogates in India are not frail, stupid, illiterate, incompetent underdogs who need activists to speak on their behalf. Indian surrogates are strong, wise, compassionate, intelligent and poised. They own their bodies. They are making decisions pertaining to their own bodies and lives for the first time in India’s patriarchal history. Surrogacy empowers Indian women to lead their families out of crisis, poverty and other challenges. The compensation they receive can finance the education of their children, start a lucrative business or build a decent home for their own families.

I find it reviling when activists talk about Indian surrogacy, pronouncing the word money like it is a filthy word they are gagging on. It is easy for privileged people to trivialize the surrogates’ compensation because to us, money is easily accessible and even dispensable. But to an Indian surrogate mother, money can be life changing. We are not talking about mere dollar bills here. Within the context of Indian surrogacy, money = life. Money = education. Money = opportunity. Money = home. Money = a child’s future. Money = hope. Money = freedom. You see, it is not the money itself, but what the money represents. If activists had their way, they would be denying Indian women the option to have financial independence.

Surrogacy is a job. It is not prostitution. It is not a baby market. The job description is simple: to care and nurture another’s child, giving them a safe place to grow. This kind of work is respectable and noble. Surrogacy may not be a job most Westerners would choose, or even a wealthy, Indian government official. 

It seems that any job that involves nurturing is looked down upon. Consider how even teachers and nurses are treated by society. Surrogacy is a good, honest job that can provide for a family. Women in poor countries work hard. They always have and they always will. However, the trend among activists is to try to stop women in poor countries from performing difficult tasks. If a job is physically challenging, the job is labelled as exploitive, even if the work is a blessing to a family. This is both condescending and destructive. All women have a right to work in whatever capacity they choose. Never underestimate what an Indian woman can achieve.

The government of India has recently proposed a ban on surrogacy. What fascinates me about this proposal is that the Indian Government is claiming to be concerned about women being exploited. And yet, their plan to protect women from being exploited is to take away their basic human rights. The media and the government alike have been quite proactive in preventing Indian surrogates from speaking. Many surrogates are eager to talk to the press so they can assure the public they are not being exploited. The surrogates are not even allowed to speak in the same Supreme Court trial that is supposedly fighting for them.  The questionable (and ironically timed) memorandum sent by the ICMR to halt Indian Surrogacy before any laws were passed, was challenged by over 70 surrogates who stormed the gates of the ICMR, demanding to be heard. Indian surrogates have their own voices and are perfectly capable of speaking without permission of the government and the foreign press.

Apparently, the ICMR and various Indian government officials consider a woman’s ability to create life to be shameful and dirty. They compare surrogates to breeding cows and prostitutes. Clearly, they do not understand science if they think there is anything sexual about being a surrogate. The sexualisation and objectification of surrogates by the government is what demoralizes surrogates; not the act of having a baby, and certainly not the act of offering the gift of life to another. Does the ancient and rich culture of India not consider motherhood to be sacred? Why the double standard? Thank you, Ovary Police, for hijacking women’s private parts and dictating if, how and when a woman can have a baby.

After reading the proposed bill to ban surrogacy, I don’t know whether I should laugh, cry, scream or vomit. There is nothing in this proposed bill that will benefit the surrogates in any way. Nearly every item is presumptuous and theoretical babble as to whether or not a surrogate understands what is going on. I am utterly amazed at how government officials, (most of whom are men) seem to be experts on what it feels like to be pregnant, and whether or not a woman can tolerate pregnancy. 

Furthermore, we could all save a lot of valuable time, effort and stress if surrogates were given the chance to speak for themselves. This ridiculous court trial, discussing the interests of surrogates, has been going on since 2012, and the surrogates are still not allowed to speak! Tell me again about how the Indian government respects women.

I’ve heard the argument that within the context of poverty, there is no such thing as choices or consent. This notion is vomitus – it does not liberate women, but rather suggests that a woman’s socio-economic background determines whether or not she is allowed to make decisions for herself. Such a philosophy oppresses women and sanctions the act of privileged people making choices that affect a woman’s fate. Additionally, Indian surrogacy clinics that operate ethically do not permit extremely impoverished women to be surrogates, making the poverty argument moot. If the critics are concerned about poverty, their time would be better spent on taking action to end extreme poverty, rather than disempowering women from taking control of their own financial destiny.

In conclusion, if you feel sorry for Indian surrogate mothers, don’t. Just stop it. They don’t need to be rescued. They are too busy changing the world for the better to listen to condescending nonsense from privileged people who underestimate them. Most people do not fully understand what surrogacy is, and therefore make gross assumptions about it. I strongly advise those of you who fit the description above to mind your own business and let Indian women choose their own destiny. 

                                                                                                                          Writer: Allison McWood