Made in India

Posted by Molly Maguire July 2, 2010
Biopolitical Times
Reproductive tourism finds cinematic expression/outlet in the new documentary, Made in India, which chronicles the outsourcing of surrogacy to India. The documentary follows an American couple, desperate for a child they are unable to conceive, who sell their house and risk their savings. Aasia Khan awaits them in India, and without her husband's permission, agrees to act as a surrogate for the couple.

The film's directors, Vaishali Sinha and Rebecca Haimowitz, describe themselves as an American and an Indian working together, [bringing] different perspectives to the film, a dynamic that had [them] both asking harder questions, digging into deeper emotional responses." On the film's website the directors explain:
"As women deeply interested in issues of reproductive rights, social justice and global issues. The subject of 'outsourcing' surrogacy to India captivated us from the moment we first read about the practice. We aim to create a film that goes beyond sensationalist headlines and uncovers the personal lives and choices of the surrogates and the infertile Americans involved."

Made in India tackles questions that have no easy answers. With Indian surrogates making decisions under financial duress, aren't American couples taking advantage of their poverty? But what about the money surrogates receive, that though paltry by American standards, allows them to buy a house or to afford an education for their children?

Adding to the ethical debates are concerns about the lack of regulation over the practice. In many countries, there are no enforceable policies or laws to protect surrogates. The U.S., for example, is often dubbed the "Wild West" of fertility treatment, for its largely market-oriented system that extends to surrogacy arrangements.

India's "reproductive tourism" industry is growing rapidly, and is now a $450 million/year industry that operates in a legal vacuum. Presently, there is a bill under consideration in the Indian parliament that purports to regulate ART. Provisions include full information disclosure to surrogates, such as medical side effects and risks; minimum-age stipulations; and limits on the number of eggs to be implanted per cycle. The current draft appears to be an improvement over the heavily gendered and patriarchal system originally proposed (and strongly criticized by women's health advocates in India,) which presumed participants to be in heterosexual marriages and required their husbands' permission to be a surrogate or have IVF treatment.

Made in India confronts these realities through a powerful narrative, where, in the filmmakers' words, "East meet West in suburbs and shanty-towns, in test tubes and Petri dishes, in surrogates and infertile couples."