Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Costs of Commodification: The Sad Story of Baby Manhji

The background:

A Japanese couple, unable to conceive a child of their own, obtained an egg from an anonymous donor (reports do not say whether the donor was paid or not) and went to the city of Anand in Gujarat, India to hire a surrogate. Anand is one of the prime hubs of the Indian surrogacy business which is almost entirely unregulated (what guidelines exist are entirely nonbinding) and estimated to be in excess of $500,00,000 annually (that's half a billion dollars, if you lose count of the zeroes). The pregnancy was successful but the marriage of the Japanese couple was not -- they divorced one month before the birth of Manhji.

Baby girl Mahji's sad story has made sensational headlines in India but I doubt that few outside India and Japan have heard of her.

Indian law gives custody to the mother in most cases of divorce. However, Baby Manhji's intended mother has severed all ties, her biological mother remains unknown and the surrogate mother's responsibility ended when she was born. Three mothers and not one will tuck her in at night or change her diapers.

Baby Manhji's father badly wants to adopt her (required by Indian law if he is to take her home) but is ineligible because he is currently single. He is left shuttling back and forth between India and Japan trying to sort out the tangled web he and his former wife created. Because he cannot legally adopt her or become her legal guardian, if he were to take her home to Japan he would be considered, under Indian law, to be a child trafficker.

While the courts have awarded temporary custody to her 70-year old Japanese grandmother, the last report I could find indicated that problems with travel documents still had not been resolved.

No comments: