On Monday, July 29, 2013, more than 30 young men and women gathered at IWHC’s office for a screening of “Made in India,” a new documentary about the human experiences behind the phenomena of “outsourcing” surrogate mothers to India. The film documents the journey of an infertile American couple, an Indian surrogate, and the reproductive outsourcing business that brings them together. Weaving together these personal stories within the context of a growing international industry, “Made In India” explores a complicated clash of families in crisis, reproductive technology, and choice from a global perspective.
IWHC’s Young Leaders are women and men between the ages of 18 to 35 who come together to network and share ideas, meet international experts working on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and take action to build safe and healthy communities for women and girls worldwide.
In addition to "Made in India," Sinha co-directed the short documentary, “Red Roses,” and “Choose Life?” She is currently co-directing “Kashmir,” a collection of personal narratives of university students on the brink of graduation in the politically troubled Kashmir region.
As part of the Advocacy and Policy Program, Sarah provides strategic and administrative support for IWHC’s international policy work. She is actively engaged in advocacy and communications activities related to the post-2015 development agenda and ICPD Beyond 2014.
The young people in the audience, who predominantly represented graduate programs in International Affairs from the New School, New York University, and Columbia University, spent the evening dissecting the complexities of sexual and reproductive rights and autonomy as it relates to surrogacy.
One question that arose from the discussion was whether someone of low socioeconomic standing, like Aasia, the surrogate profiled in the film, can make a free and informed decision to become a surrogate, or whether she is compelled to do it as a result of her poverty. Sarah Gold, an IWHC Program Assistant, brought clarity to the discussion by using the International Conference on Population and Development’s definition of reproductive rights, particularly “the right of all to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.” Through this definition, we see Aasia as an autonomous agent who, despite her poverty, was able to make a free decision about her body.
But the concern, Sarah noted, is whether there are safeguards in place to fully protect the rights of surrogates. As depicted in the film, there are significant gaps in Indian law that can leave surrogates like Aasia open to exploitation. Our primary concern at IWHC is that the rights and health of any woman who chooses to be a surrogate are protected and that she is able to consensually enter into such a role freely and fully informed.
This means that there must be rights mechanisms in place for ensuring she isn’t coerced into making the decision to be a surrogate, that she has access to high quality medical care, that she fully understands any contract she signs, that she is compensated fairly, and that she doesn’t face discrimination for her choice to be a surrogate.
Sarah explained to attendees, “Addressing the root causes of poverty (including widespread and deeply rooted gender inequalities)—which give rise to the very conditions under which Aasia made her decision—is a fundamental aspect of our international policy work.”