Today, October 15, the United Nations celebrates the “International Day of Rural Women.” The day was established in 2007 to mark “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
Unfortunately, in places like India, Thailand, and soon, Nepal, one supposed means of promoting economic development for rural women has resulted in a push for commercial surrogacy. From my own travels in India, I’ve seen and heard the logic behind this reasoning firsthand. The poverty in these places is unimaginable. Proponents of surrogacy argue that rural women should be given an opportunity to earn some much needed money to build a better home, send their children to school, pay off their husbands business, or a host of other reasons. In exchange, they’ll also be given an opportunity to help another couple conceive of the child of their dreams. In short, it’s presented as a win-win situation.
This, however, is a false means of economic development that actually exploits poor and vulnerable women—especially in rural settings that often lack the education to understand the level of commitment involved, the health risks that they might incur, and what this decision will mean for their families (which often include leaving their own children and husband during the nine month duration of the pregnancy). Furthermore, these women are disadvantaged by a legal system that favors the fertility industry and western couples.
On this International Day of Rural Women, the CBC joins the international community in promoting real educational and employment opportunities for rural women. We hope they will join us in recognizing that commercial surrogacy fails to make women and their families self-sufficient, undermines their dignity, and potentially risks their health. Authentic development solutions must recognize this. Anything less is an insult to these women and a poor reflection on the institutions that aim to advocate on their behalf.