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Picture:Dr Nayna Patel and the surrogate mothers of the Akanksha Clinic.

 The Indian government has said it plans to ban surrogate services for foreigners wanting babies.

India is called the “surrogacy hub” of the world, where infertile couples, including many from overseas, hire the wombs of local women to carry their embryos through to birth. The government in an affadavit to the Supreme Court said surrogacy would be available “only for Indian couples”. The union government said today that it plans to ban surrogate services for foreigners wanting babies.

A petition in the Supreme Court last month ordered the government to spell out plans for regulating the industry.

“The government does not support commercial surrogacy and also the scope of surrogacy is limited to Indian married infertile couples only and not to the foreigners,” the government said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Existing rules say foreign couples seeking to enter into a surrogacy arrangement in India must be a “man and woman [who] are duly married and the marriage should be sustained at least two years”.

The government said it would require some time to introduce the law.

“[It is] in the process of bringing a comprehensive legal framework for not only protecting the rights of surrogate mother but also for prohibiting and penalising commercial surrogacy,” the affidavit presented to the court by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said.

Commercial surrogacy is estimated to be worth more than $1bn (£65m) a year in India. Health industry estimates put the size of India’s surrogacy business at nine billion rupees ($138 million) and growing at 20 percent a year.

Correspondents say good medical technology, low cost and a lack of regulation have made the country a hub of surrogacy services.

India has one-third of the world’s poorest people and critics argue that poverty is a major factor in the women’s decision to become a surrogate.

A top fertility expert branded the government’s move discriminatory, while a leading women’s activist warned it could push the industry underground and out of reach of regulators.

Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...