Cultural Imperialism and the Indian Surrogacy Ban

pregnant-shadowI can’t help but read many of the articles related to the Indian government’s recent ban on commercial international surrogacy with a certain amount of irony.

“The move has dismayed childless couples worldwide,” noted one article in The Telegraph. Others referred to “the panic” caused by the decision. Another noted that this ban would lead to the exploitation of women!

For years, much of the western world has looked to India as a primary hotspot for surrogacy. The country boasts a strong medical industry and a large workforce of women whose wombs are ready to be hired for international couples looking to descend on the country in hopes of having the child of their dreams (and for a much cheaper price than at home!).

Yet with the Indian government deciding to step in and scrutinize a practice that have put many women and children in harm’s way—and in some cases, resulted in death—the rest of the world is disappointed that their previous surrogacy surrogate provider is closing up shop. How dare they!

For decades now, cultural imperialism—a term used to describe unequal relationships between certain nations or cultures—has been denounced by those within the academy, the media, and the highest levels of political power as incompatible with our current understanding of human rights and universal values.

It’s for this reason that I just can’t help but see the hypocrisy and double standard at play when it comes to the Indian surrogacy debate. Instead of hearing cheers of “bravo!” and India receiving plaudits for protecting the interests of their own citizens, the western world is filling its headlines with stories of unbelief and outrage.

Yet the practice of surrogacy is one that is full of contradictions: intentionally separating mothers from the child they’ve bonded with for nine months, severing biological ties, and reducing conception to a mere contract.

Given this, I suppose we shouldn’t be so surprised at the double-standards at play here, but it nonetheless reveals just how flawed this practice is—as are the defenses of those that try to advocate for it.

Reprinted with permission from the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture.