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Reprod Biomed Online. 2011 Nov;23(5):618-25. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2011.07.007. Epub 2011 Jul 23.

Transnational commercial surrogacy in India: gifts for global sisters?

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Department of Sociology, University of Cape Town, South Africa.


In this ethnography of transnational commercial surrogacy in a small clinic in India, the narratives of two sets of women involved in this new form of reproductive travel – the transnational clients and the surrogates themselves – are evaluated. How do these women negotiate the culturally anomalous nature of transnational surrogacy within the unusual setting of India? It is demonstrated that while both sets of women downplay the economic aspect of surrogacy by drawing on predictable cultural tools like 'gift', 'sisterhood' and 'mission', they use these tools in completely unexpected ways. Previous ethnographies of surrogacy in other parts of the world have revealed that women involved in surrogacy use these narratives to downplay the contractual nature of their relationship with each other. Ironically, when used in the context of transnational surrogacy in India, these narratives further highlight and often reify the inequalities based on class, race and nationality between the clients and suppliers of reproductive tourism in India.

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