‘People like us need to hide it’: Stigma and Surrogacy for the Indian Intending Parents

Authors: Swati Shah*, Department of Geography, University of Otago, Christina Ergler, Lecturer, Department of Geography, University of Otago, New Zealand, Bryndl Hohmann-marriott, Department of Sociology, Gender & Social Work, University of Otago, New Zealand
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Gender, Political Geography
Keywords: Parenthood, Childlessness, Surrogacy, Intending parents, Stigma, Reproductive justice
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: 8210, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Parenthood for Indian couples is typically considered as ‘natural,’ and its absence can be devastating. Childless couples wanting to have a genetically related child may turn to surrogacy as a last resort. India has emerged as an international centre for surrogacy, attracting prospective parents from around the globe. More recently, prospective Indian parents have also started using widely available surrogacy hospitals. Despite the pressures to have a child, forming a family through surrogacy remains a socially unacceptable practice in India. Therefore, only a small number of prospective Indian parents engage with surrogacy and often hide their decision from their families and society. Whereas the current focus of research and policy remains on the experiences of surrogates and their entanglement in unequal power relations with clinics and intending parents, we argue for the need to extend our perspective to understand the complex experiences of the intending parents in India- from identifying themselves as infertile or involuntarily childless to becoming parents via surrogacy. In this paper, we draw on eight semi-structured in-depth interviews with Indian intending parents supplemented with media reports to show how they are constructed as ‘unnatural’, ‘abnormal’ and ‘selfish’ in different spaces. Drawing on theories of power and stigma, we show how the reproductive decisions, choices and experiences of the intending parents are shaped and governed by the dominant norms in the society. By focusing on the experiences of intending parents in a developing economy, this study extends reproductive justice debates by including the voices of a multiply-marginalised group.

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