It was a one-of-a-kind experience for the over 500 participants of this awareness walk. Hosted by INSTAR (Indian Society for Third party Assisted Reproduction) at south Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday, the 5 km event was attended by surrogate moms, doctors, lawyers and Assisted Reproductive Technology enthusiasts some of whom even traveled from far off states—Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and the Northeast—to be a part of the cause.
Surrogate mothers from these places walked alongside genetic parents and their children as did families from Delhi whose count was, however, higher. Some intended parents also attended the walk. "I came straight from Hyderabad. I am a surrogate mother of three children. It was a very nice feeling to give another woman the gift of motherhood," said Ramya Rao (name changed to protect confidentiality).
Vimal Bhargav, who works in a construction company in Delhi, now has a two-and-half-year-old son. He came to the walk with his wife and son. "It's a viable option for achieving parenthood. We are living a very happy life and have faced no problems," Bhargav said.
Himanshu Bavishi, a doctor and president of INSTAR, cleared some prevalent misconceptions about assisted reproductive technology, especially surrogacy. People do not feel comfortable enough to share their identities but this is now changing, he said.
To address ethical and sociological questions on surrogacy, a legal framework is on anvil which may help simplify matters. But though the government drafted Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill in 2013, it's yet to be tabled in parliament. Opinion on it seemed positive as Supreme Court lawyer Inderbir Singh said, "The ART Bill takes care of rights and duties of all parties concerned in a very fair way. I don't think any contrary guidelines should be imposed."
ART bank owner Akhar Anjum walked to support the cause. His bank provides contact info of women willing to become surrogates. "We provide a minimum compensation of Rs 2.25 lakh and living expenses for a year with healthcare. In metros like Delhi, we give Rs 3.30 lakh. It can't be too less and it can't be too much. Above all, we take proper care of surrogate mothers," doctor and general secretary of INSTAR Shivani Sachdeva Gour said.