Ultra orthodox in the community are debating if scriptures allow renting of a non-Parsi womb.
Parsis are considering the option of surrogacy under the government funded Jiyo Parsi scheme to boost the community’s dwindling population. While a high priest who was consulted on the idea has given a conditional nod stating that the egg and the sperm has to be of the Parsi couple, the ultra orthodox in the community are debating over the rightness of renting a womb.
Under the Jiyo Parsi scheme, central government has offered funding of Rs 10 crores for a span of four years for Parsi couples to undergo infertility treatment like Invitro Fertilisation (IVF) and Artificial Insemination (AI). If all goes well, the scheme will soon fund surrogacy costs of up to Rs 5 lakh per couple. “The matter is under examination by the law ministry and the Indian Council of Medical Research. I would not like to comment further on this,” said Dr Shernaz Cama, director of Parzor, a project to preserve Parsi Zoroastrian heritage that implements the ‘Jiyo Parsi’ scheme on behalf of the centre. Last week, Cama and Bombay Parsi Punchayet chairman Dinshaw Mehta met Arvind Mayaram, secretary, Ministry of Minority Affairs to discuss the practicalities of funding surrogacy under the scheme. “To start with, a law officer was called to clarify if surrogacy is legal. It turns out that there are no laws to govern surrogacy yet but it is not illegal in the country. We are just waiting for the law officer to give us in writing that there is no law against surrogacy,” said Mehta adding that the minister has said that surrogacy procedure will be funded for up to Rs 5 lakhs and the extra expenditure will have to be borne by the couple or they can approach some trusts for help.
According to Mehta, high priest Khurshed Dastur was consulted and he had given a nod too. “Surrogacy is fairly new and we don’t have any religious texts on this topic. I don’t see any problem as far as the sperm and the egg belongs to the Parsi couple seeking help for having children,” Dastur told Mumbai Mirror adding that the matter was discussed briefly. “There are several factors that come along with surrogacy and they should be discussed at length,” he added.
A community member who did not wish to be named said that there are several people who will not be comfortable with the idea of renting a womb of a non-Parsi. “The best way to implement this would be to have a mandate that everything should be Parsi. The egg, the sperm and the womb too,” said the member adding that several poor Parsi women in rural parts of Gujarat would be monetarily benefited by such an initiative.
A priest from Mumbai, Ervad Marzban Hathiram, who is known for his orthodox views, is completely against the idea of surrogacy. “Our religious scriptures talk about development of foetus in the mother’s womb and it talks about the process of nurturing the foetus by the mother. Is it not against the religion if the foetus is in somebody else’s womb?” said Hathiram adding that the nourishment to the foetus is derived from the mother and thus the womb matters a lot. Hathiram said that act of procreation is a holy act and it shouldn’t be brought down to petri dishes and rented wombs. “I would be against this even if the egg, sperm and the womb is of a Parsi,” he added.
IVF expert Dr Anahita Pundole who is attached to Jiyo Parsi said that a surrogate is simply a carrier for the baby. “If approved, surrogacy is a good idea,” she said.