The Hari Putar Dialogues - 17
(Times of India, 6 August, JAIPUR: She's only 11 days old, and already her fate is tied in legal knots and international complications. Her biological parents are Japanese. When her mother, Yuki Yamada, could not conceive, she chose a surrogate mother in Ahmedabad to carry her child. The child was born on July 25 in Anand, Gujarat. But a month before that, Yuki divorced her husband, Dr Ikufumi Yamada, and disowned the child. And that, it seems, is the root of all trouble for the infant who still does not have a name. )
Putar: A report in the Times of India today speaks of the story of a baby girl whose biological parents are Japanese, but who has an Indian surrogate mother.
Hari: I read that story, putar. The girl's father, Ikufumi is a 45 year old orthopedic surgeon attached to a Tokyo hospital. He and his former wife Yuki (41) signed an agreement of surrogacy with Dr Nayanaben Patel of Akansha IVF Centre, an Ahmedabad hospital, on November 22 last year. They rented the womb of a married woman Pritiben Mehta, who signed an agreement to serve as the surrogate mother. I'm not clear on what the medical procedure is though.
Putar: The doctors fertilize the eggs and then transfer the embryo. The fertilization process of Yuki's eggs with Ikufumi's sperm was completed in Tokyo and the embryo was brought to Ahmedabad. The embryo transfer was done at Dr Nayanaben's hospital on November 22 in the presence of the Japanese couple. After that, they left for Tokyo. The baby was delivered on July 25.
Hari: But in the meanwhile the parents have divorced, putar, and that has created the whole problem. Otherwise normally after the delivery they would have adopted their daughter and taken her back to Japan.
Putar: According to the Indian Guardian and Wards Act a single father cannot adopt a girl child. The father, acting on his own, cannot therefore adopt his own child.
Hari: And the girl's mother has now disowned the child.
Putar: She may be taking out her anger against the father on the poor child.
Hari: Before he can take custody the father would now have to prove in Court that he is the biological father. Traditionally lawyers have argued that maternity is a fact and paternity is a presumption.
Putar: Although now with surrogate mothers it would appear that even maternity is no longer a fact.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: There is a good reason why there is a law that does not allow a single father to adopt a girl child. This is designed to prevent abuse of children. The law could not have anticipated the medical developments that have taken place, but it needs to be changed now. Till that happens it would appear that the only other legal solution would be for the father to marry another woman and then the couple could jointly try to adopt his daughter.
Hari: What a strange situation!
Putar: In the future these kinds of medical procedures will become even more common, Papaji.
Hari: It is already a booming business for some people.
Putar: Don't you think that the surrogate mother could become attached to the child that she has kept inside her womb for so many months?
Hari: It's more than likely.
Putar: It is true that it is the biological parents who have contributed to the basic genetic make up of the child, Papaji. Yet, perhaps medical science will discover tomorrow that the surrogate mother also makes an important contribution to the physique of the child because it is her body that is the host to the child for so many months supplying food and blood.
Hari: I'm not so sure about that.
Putar: In any case some biological parents may not mind if the child continues to have a relationship with the surrogate mother.
Hari: That's possible of course. At the moment however our poor baby girl cannot have a relationship with anyone. Her Japanese biological mother has disowned her, the surrogate Indian mother has gone away as was required under the contract and the Japanese biological father cannot get custody because of the antiquated law. The poor baby is being cared for in a hospital by complete strangers.
Putar: That's true. Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: After some years the biological mother as well as the surrogate mother may want to resume a relationship. And then this child may have a fairly complicated schedule when she grows up.
Hari: How do you mean, putar?
Putar: Let's say some years have passed, the Japanese man has married, his first wife has remarried but now wants to connect with her off spring from her previous marriage, and the surrogate mother is also living in the same city.
Hari: That's quite an assumption, but I see that you are trying to make some point. So let's assume that this happens.
Putar: The girl will spend Mondays with her biological father and his second wife. They may have even jointly adopted her as a couple.
Hari: All right.
Putar: And Tuesday's she may spend with her biological mother who now lives with her second husband.
Hari: That's certainly possible at the rate at which divorces and second marriages are happening, putar.
Putar: And Wednesday's she may like to spend with her surrogate mother and her husband.
Hari: I see what you are getting at.
Putar: Thursday's she will spend with her grandparents from her biological father's side, Fridays with the grandparents from her biological mother's side and Saturday's with the grandparents from her surrogate mother's side.
Hari: What about Sunday, putar?
Putar: Sunday's she should just spend praying, Papaji.
Hari: Why praying, putar?
Putar: She is really God's child Papaji, and she should spend the day connecting with her real parent. The rest are all hypothetical parents, especially if you consider what her situation is today. The latest news is that the Japanese wife of her Japanese father was not the person who donated the eggs. Those were donated by an anonymous donor. Wouldn't you agree?
Hari: I don't know putar.