An Australian Couple have reportedly abandoned a child born through surrogacy in India, while taking one of the twins home. The revelation was made by Australian Chief Justice of the Family Court, Diana Bryant in a family law seminar in Australia this week.
The incident reportedly took place in 2012. An Australian Couple had taken up a surrogacy arrangement in India and it had resulted in the birth of twin children. The Australian Couple had chosen to take only one child born through the surrogacy arrangement, while deciding to abandon the other twin. The Officials at the Australian Consulate had knowledge of this decisions and have reportedly tried persuading the couple against it. Also, an Australian MP is said to have pressured the Australian High Commission to allow the Couple to take only the baby of the couple’s choice. The couple had already one child before the surrogacy arrangement, and they wanted only one child of the opposite sex. It is not revealed which gender the couple had chosen. Also, another person claiming to be friend of the Australian Couple seems to have taken custody of the child, while it is not clear if the claim is true and if there was any commercial interest.
This shocking news follows the Thailand Baby Gammy news, where another Australian Couple had taken up surrogacy in Thailand and had deserted one of the twin children, as the child was affected by down-syndrome.
Abandonment of a child is an offence in India
Abandonment of a child is punishable under Indian Law under Section 317 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The relevant provision is extracted hereunder:
317. Exposure and abandonment of child under twelve years, by parent or person having care of it.—Whoever being the father or mother of a child under the age of twelve years, or having the care of such child, shall expose or leave such child in any place with the intention of wholly abandoning such child, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, or with fine, or with both.
Explanation.—This section is not intended to prevent the trial of the offender for murder or culpable homicide, as the case may be, if the child dies in consequence of the exposure.
If the facts as provided are true, the acts of abandonment of the child by the Commissioning Couple clearly fall within the above provision of law, which warrants 7 years of imprisonment. The Australian Commissioning Couple have initiated the surrogacy arrangement, but have chosen to take custody of only one child and abandon the other. The mere act of abandoning the child is clearly an offence.
Australian High Commission must have acted
The Australian High Commission is said to have full knowledge of the fact that the couple are trying to abandon one of the twins born through surrogacy. As is prudent to any logical reasoning, the Australian High Commission must have informed the Indian Authorities about this issue and must have taken steps to have registered a case with the local police about the act, rather than merely trying to orally persuade the couple.
I am not sure which State in Australia the couple reside. But almost every state law in Australia would have a provision which makes the act of abandoning a child an offence. The couple would be liable to prosecution in Australia also.
Welfare of child undermined
There is no doubt that the welfare of the children has been undermined. It is unbelievable that the officials who had knowledge of the information have failed to inform the Indian or Australian Authorities. Abandonment of children and possible trafficking of children is a very serious allegation. Reckless, but intentional, decision by the commissioning parents clearly makes them unfit to be good parents for a child.
Need for International Intervention in Cross Border Surrogacy Arrangements
In every surrogacy arrangement, a new life is brought into being only on the instance of a couple who wish to have a family. The act of the Australian Couples, be it Baby Gammy or the Indian Case, is even unimaginable and inhuman. The Hauge Conference is exploring the possibility of having a convention on international surrogacy arrangement. Such an effort is most required to deal these scenarios with iron hands. The international community must come forward to ensure that this act is never repeated.