The devastating earthquake in Nepal last April unearthed many harsh realities of life in the poverty stricken country – including the alleged exploitation of young Indian migrants by surrogacy agents in Kathmandu.
After the 2013 Indian government ban on the use of local surrogates by non-married, gay or single parents, surrogacy agents have turned to Nepal where the procedure is less regulated.
While Nepalese locals tend not to act as surrogates, there is no official government ban and scores of migrant women rent their wombs in cities like Kathmandu.
Surrogacy agencies in Nepal lure clients on the Internet with rates that are about a fourth of the prices in the United States. The packages cost between $35,000 and $65,000. The mothers earn between $5,000 and $6,000 of that, the price of a house in that part of Asia. The rest goes into the pockets of doctors and agencies.
SE Asia surrogacy activist group Surrogacy Laws India has expressed concern about the treatment of the women, who are effectively detained in local hotels for the duration of their pregnancy. Surrogacy agents want to avoid criticism from the socially conservative Nepalese community, who are largely ignorant of the science behind IVF and see pregnancy out of wedlock as taboo.
Despite the questionable treatment of surrogates, Nepalese businessmen are excited about the growing surrogacy trade.
"Surrogate mothers can help develop our medical tourism," said Roop Jyoti, the owner of a new surrogacy clinic at Kathmandu’s Grande hospital. "It's good for our economy and our health care system. Agencies have brought us a know-how that it would have taken us years to acquire. Now it's up to the government to decide whether they want surrogate motherhood to develop."
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