Challenges of transnational parenthood Exploring different perspectives of surrogacy in Sweden and India
Abstract: Transnational surrogacy challenges traditional norms of parenthood, especially motherhood; additionally, it is viewed as the exploitation of poor women. The overall aim of this thesis was to shed light on the consequences of an unregulated situation on surrogacy in the Swedish and Indian contexts, and to give different perspectives on surrogacy and the surrogate. The experiences of using transnational surrogacy and the consequences of using this reproductive method in a context of a largely unregulated situation had rarely been explored at the start of the study. Between 2012 and 2015, qualitative interviews were conducted with commissioning parents in Sweden who used transnational surrogacy mainly in India, as well as with social workers in Sweden, who have handled cases regarding the legal recognition of parenthood. To capture a non-western perspective on surrogacy, the views of women and men in different social strata in Assam, India were explored through individual interviews and focus group discussions. At the start of the project, India was the most common country to turn to for surrogacy. The results reveal that both commissioning parents and social workers needed to navigate inadequate parental legislation, with the result that commissioning parents felt questioned as parents. Social workers tried to balance the protection of the surrogate’s rights with the child’s best interest. The ethical aspects made the users of surrogacy ambivalent, and, for social workers, it resulted in further reluctance to handle legal parenthood cases. However, from an Assamese point of view, no ethical considerations were expressed; instead, the surrogate would either be stigmatized for her act and seen as though she was “selling her child,” or seen as a woman doing a noble act, helping a childless couple. All the informants demonstrated a pragmatic view of legal parenthood, but the current legal situation in Sweden limits the scope to act as parents in relation to society, because of the length of time it takes to be recognized as legal parents. This comes with a risk for children. From the perspective of reproductive justice, a clearer regulation on surrogacy, and kinship rules that are more adjusted to the current family practice, are needed. Additionally, to limit the risks for all parties involved in the surrogacy process, a more transparent surrogacy process is needed.
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