Centre for Cultures of Reproduction, Technologies and Health

Surrogacy and gay male parenting: Balancing the rights and interests of those involved

CORTH Blog: 16 May 2019

Marte Haaland

How do cases of surrogacy for male gay parents challenge concepts like legal parenthood and parental responsibilities? How do families plan for surrogacy and how is the best interest of the child ensured in in the process? What are the feminist concerns about surrogacy for male gay couples and how has the legal and cultural landscape of surrogacy changed in India over the last few decades? These are a few of the questions that were discussed at our last CORTH Conversations of the term held at the School of Law, Politics and Sociology on May 1st 2019.

Surrogacy5The Conversation that was chaired by Brownwyn Parry (King’s College), offered insightful reflections on the manner in which surrogacy by gay male couples may influence our perceptions of the rights and interests of the parties involved. During the conversation, four scholars presented papers that touched upon the issue from varied and complementary perspectives.

Phillip Bremner (Law, Sussex European Institute) presented his thoughts on how surrogacy for male gay couples may require us to rethink concepts of legal parenthood and parental responsibilities. Considering the rapidly changing landscape of reproductive technologies and the increased recognition of rights of LGBT minorities Phillip questioned the adequacy of UK’s current family law in determining who can be considered a legal parent. Following this debate, Maria Moscati presented preliminary findings from her ongoing research among gay Italian couples who have had children by surrogacy. Her research explores how these couples consider the interest of the child in the process of planning for becoming parents through surrogacy. The debate revealed the entangled relationship between law, technology, culture and reproduction.

The discussion was further enriched by Craig Lind (Law, Sussex European Institute), who outlined key perspectives on surrogacy from feminist scholarship. Adding another layer of complexities to the matter, Maya Unnithan (Sussex Anthropology, Corth) presented an overview of the changes in the legal framework for surrogacy in India over the last few decades. By taking into concerns international demand for surrogacy services, including from gay male couples and the disjunction between a global debate on the ethics of surrogacy and the local understanding of surrogacy work she described some of the challenges posed by international surrogacy.

Brownyn Parry gave the final remarks of the session in which she took a step back and asked some overarching questions about surrogacy in general, and surrogacy for male gay couples in particular. Drawing upon her own research about the legal changes on surrogacy in India, she outlined some of the unforeseen consequences of banning commercial surrogacy while allowing surrogacy services to be provided between close relatives without pay. Furthermore, she pointed to the distinction made between gestation and birthing on one hand to other forms of affective labour such as child care and questioned why one is commodified while the other is not.

The scholars engaged in a lively debate, followed on twitter,  in which the topic of surrogacy and male gay parenting was scrutinized from a variety of positions. While some questioned were answered, many were left for further reflection and continued discussion.  

Report by Marte Haaland, photos by Devanik Saha

Surrogacy and gay male parenting