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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 01 November 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Parenthood and Surrogacy: Ethical and Societal issues
  2. Ethics, Parliamentary Conduct and the Indian MP

Parenthood and Surrogacy: Ethical and Societal Issues


Context:

The societal implications of surrogacy are highly intricate and demand serious attention. The recent Supreme Court ruling, which overturned the ban on using donor gametes for women affected by Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome, has elicited joy from the affected couples, but it is poised to have profound and widespread repercussions in our society.

Relevance:

GS 2-

  • Issues Related to Women
  • Government Policies & Interventions
  • Issues Arising Out of Design & Implementation of Policies
  • Social Empowerment

GS4-Ethics

Mains Question:

Surrogacy raises a multitude of complex ethical concerns related to gender, employment, compensation, exploitation, and inequality. Analyse. (15 marks, 250 words).

About Surrogacy

There are two primary forms of surrogacy: traditional and gestational surrogacy.

Traditional surrogacy:

  • Traditional surrogacy involves artificially impregnating the surrogate mother with the intended father’s sperm, making her both the genetic and gestational mother.
  • In this method, the surrogate’s own eggs are used, resulting in a genetic connection to the child.

Gestational Surrogacy:

  • On the other hand, gestational surrogacy entails implanting an embryo, created through in vitro fertilization, into the uterus of a surrogate mother who carries and gives birth to the baby. In gestational surrogacy, the surrogate is not genetically related to the child.
  • The embryo is formed using genetic material from the intended parents or donors. The categorization of surrogacy as commercial or altruistic hinges on whether the surrogate receives financial compensation for her pregnancy.
  • Only a handful of countries, like India and Ukraine, permit commercial surrogacy. India, due to its relatively low costs, has emerged as a popular destination for fertility tourism, attracting couples from around the world seeking assisted reproductive techniques.

Need of Surrogacy

  • Globally, the incidence of infertility is on the rise, with the World Health Organization reporting that approximately 17.5% of the adult population, roughly one in six people worldwide, grapple with infertility.
  • This underscores the urgency of advancing assisted reproductive techniques (ART), such as in vitro fertilization and surrogacy.
  • Surrogacy is often seen as a potential remedy for infertility or an alternative to adoption, thus garnering considerable celebration for enabling individuals to achieve their dream of parenthood.
  • Surrogacy can be seen as an extension of reproductive rights, providing a means for individuals and couples to have children when traditional methods are unattainable.
  • It can be a lifeline for those grappling with infertility, same-sex couples, and individuals unable to carry a pregnancy for medical reasons.

Ethical concerns associated with surrogacy

Exploitation:

  • Critics contend that surrogacy may lead to the commodification of women’s bodies, particularly in commercial surrogacy arrangements where surrogates receive compensation.
  • Concerns about exploitation, coercion, and unequal power dynamics between surrogates and intended parents are prevalent.
  • Unfortunately, it is often women from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds who bear the brunt of surrogacy arrangements.
  • They may need to sacrifice their own lives to fulfill the desires of affluent couples. During the surrogacy period, they are often isolated from their own families to avoid societal stigma.
  • There is frequently an exploitative relationship between fertility clinics and intermediaries who lure financially vulnerable women with promises of payment, most of which ultimately goes to these intermediaries.
  • In the event of any health issues arising from the pregnancy, neither the hospital nor the intended parents tend to provide adequate care for these underprivileged women.

Psychological effects

  • Carrying another person’s child can give rise to a host of psychological issues for the surrogate mother.
  • Surrogacy can also have profound emotional and psychological effects on all parties involved, including the surrogate, intended parents, and potentially the child.
  • The dynamics of parent-child relationships in surrogacy can be intricate, raising questions about genetic and gestational connections, as well as the emotional bond between the child and the surrogate.
  • Surrogacy challenges traditional notions of family by involving multiple parties in the reproductive process.

Conclusion

Rather than regarding impoverished women as mere “breeding factories,” it is essential to explore alternative methods such as adoption or emerging technologies like artificial wombs to meet the parenting needs of prospective couples.


Ethics, Parliamentary Conduct and the Indian MP


Context:

The recent actions taken by the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee in response to a complaint against a Member of Parliament (MP) have sparked significant public discourse. A senior MP from the ruling party, filed a complaint with the Speaker, alleging that the MP had received money from a businessman in exchange for raising questions in Parliament to promote the businessman’s business interests. The Speaker subsequently referred the complaint to the Ethics Committee for investigation and a report.

Relevance:

GS2- Polity

Mains Question:

With the help of suitable illustration, highlight the importance of parliamentary committees for the effective functioning of the legislature. (10 marks, 150 words).

Procedure followed in such cases

  • It is important to clarify that if an MP accepts money in exchange for raising questions in Parliament, it constitutes a breach of privilege and contempt of the House.
  • Such complaints are typically forwarded to the Committee of Privileges for a thorough investigation.
  • This committee conducts an inquiry and provides its findings in a report, along with recommendations for action against the implicated MP.
  • In cases where it is proven that an MP accepted illegal payments for performing parliamentary duties, expulsion from the House is a possible outcome.
  • Instances of MPs being expelled for such reasons have occurred in the Lok Sabha.
  • For example, in 1951 an MP of the Provisional Parliament, was found guilty of promoting the interests of a business association in exchange for financial benefits by raising questions and proposing amendments that favored the business association. A special House committee determined that his conduct was detrimental to the dignity of the House and inconsistent with the standards expected of its members.

Role of the Ethics committee vis-a-vis the committee of privileges

  • In the present case, despite the allegation being about accepting illegal gratification for parliamentary work, it has been referred to the Ethics Committee.
  • The Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha, established in 2000, is responsible for reviewing complaints related to the unethical behavior of MPs and recommending appropriate actions. It is also tasked with formulating a code of conduct for MPs.
  • An interesting aspect of the Ethics Committee is that the term “unethical conduct” has not been precisely defined, leaving it to the committee’s discretion to assess specific actions and decide whether they are unethical.
  • Some past cases have indicated the type of conduct that might be considered unethical. For example, an MP once took a female companion on a parliamentary tour, falsely claiming her as his wife, which the committee deemed unethical, resulting in his suspension from the House.
  • But more severe cases of misconduct or criminal offenses are typically handled by the Committee of Privileges or special committees, not the Ethics Committee.
  • If the present case pertains to accepting illegal gratification, it becomes a matter of privilege breach and should not fall under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Committee.

Parliamentary investigations and judicial investigations

  • Since accepting a bribe is a criminal offense, it is usually investigated by government law enforcement agencies.
  • Parliamentary committees do not engage in criminal investigations.
  • They decide whether an MP’s conduct constitutes a breach of privilege or contempt of the House based on evidence and may impose relevant sanctions.
  • The punishment by the House relates to the MP’s functioning within the House, while criminal offenses are dealt with through legal channels.
  • Parliamentary investigations differ from judicial investigations.
  • Parliament’s committees conduct inquiries under the House’s rules and have investigative powers to protect the institution’s honor and dignity.
  • They employ various methods, including examining written documents, interviewing witnesses, and analyzing evidence.
  • However, parliamentary inquiries do not adhere to the same rules of evidence as judicial investigations.

Online submission of questions

  • The issue of Members of Parliament (MPs) sharing their passwords and login credentials with others is now in the spotlight. In practice, MPs often lack the time to personally draft questions.
  • As a result, they are known to share their login information with personal assistants, which is considered a practical necessity.
  • Furthermore, it appears that the Lok Sabha has not established any regulations to govern the online submission of questions.
  • Additionally, MPs are free to enlist the assistance of individuals in carrying out their parliamentary responsibilities. They are not obliged to disclose the sources from which they obtain information for their parliamentary work.

Conclusion

Article 105 of the Constitution grants MPs the freedom to express “anything” within the House, and this right should extend to accessing information from various sources to formulate questions or draft bills and resolutions for presentation in Parliament. Consequently, an inquiry into the sources of information used by an MP may not have a legal basis. Nevertheless, Parliament retains the authority to take disciplinary action against its members.


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