Precarity and Surrogacy: An Untold Tale of Assisted Reproductive Technologies of India

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 11:30
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Bula BHADRA, Sociology, University of Calcutta, India
Motherhood and ideology of motherhood has gathered new momentum in this heyday of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). This has corroborated Gene Corea’s prediction in The Mother Machine (1985) that wombs of “nonvaluable” women are used as “breeders” for the embryos of “valuable” women. This prediction is difficult to discount when one looks at the fact that India’s rent a womb enterprise has become a two-billion-dollar industry. This paper examines a trajectory and addresses the ways in which precarity as an ontological condition of human vulnerability for surrogate women in India through the process of ‘unequal exchange in reproduction’ and flexploitation along with existential precariousness have affected all service sector workers but especially women. In the zenith of neoliberal globalization and within the context of technologization of reproduction, India has surfaced as a neo-colonial market of cheap female body parts especially ‘wombs’.


This paper, thus, articulates the interrelation between surrogacy and precarity through India’s huge commercial surrogacy industry and reflects on the following issues: Do lived experiences of  surrogates and their precarious existence forms the precariat, the alleged emerging class composed of people experiencing precarity? Does there now  exist another variety of ‘division  of labour  and  concomitant inequality ’ in  reproduction—between precariat women who  ‘sell eggs or rent their  uteruses’ and  affluent  women who  pay  for  them? Are precariat Women of the South increasingly reduced to numbers, targets, wombs, tubes and other reproductive parts only? Do these technologies discriminate between women in terms of race, social class, and developed/developing nations where the surrogate women  suffer  from  failing  social  and  economic  networks  of  support  and  become differentially exposed to injury, violence, and death?  Finally, have these called for a revisiting of discourses within the feminist theorizations, particularly in the Third World on women’s fast growing precarization and its unexplored forms?