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Womb for sale debate surfaces in Nepal

[Nepal]

The Times of India
March 8th, 2011

Almost nine years after India's Supreme Court gave the legal nod to commercial surrogacy, the issue has finally surfaced in Nepal after a disgruntled wife went to court to prevent her husband from bequeathing his property to his daughter by a surrogate mother.

Sambhavi Rana, who comes from an upper class family in Kathmandu, and her mother-in-law Vidya Rana, went to Supreme Court to stop the former's husband, Ujjwal Rana, from bequeathing the couple's property to his three-year-old daughter Bina. Bina had been conceived by a commercial surrogate mother, Ayushma Nagarkoti, with whom Rana had signed a formal contract, undertaking to pay maintenance and medical costs for her for two years and the woman had agreed to hand over the child when she was two.

Though Rana had also notified the chief district officer, saying his wife, who was incapable of giving birth, had agreed to the contract, the wife challenged it in court, saying she was kept in the dark. She also challenged his claim that she could not conceive, accusing him of mental and other forms of cruelty.

The case is the first of its kind in a country that had till now remained silent on the issue of commercial surrogacy though there were reports in the Indian media that Nepali women were also flocking to India to offer to become surrogate mothers to rich people, especially foreigners or non-resident Indians. Nagarkoti had been taken to India for the complicated in-vitro fertilization with the sperms coming from Rana. She is a married woman whose husband is abroad. Nagarkoti had told the court that her husband had been informed about the transaction and had given his consent.

Though Nepal's laws do not have any provision to deal with surrogacy, a single bench of judge Tek Narayan Kunwar resolved the dispute Monday, ruling that a surrogate child should have the same rights as a biological one and should be entitled to parental property. The decision however is bound to trigger a debate on a once hidden issue. The complainants have expressed unhappiness with the decision with their lawyers saying that it overrode the role of the mother and the need to get her consent for acquiring a child through a surrogate mother. It also legitimised bigamy, they said.



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