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“Made in India”: Outsourcing Surrogate Motherhood

| March 23, 2011

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Still from "Made in India

Without judging the parties involved, two Brooklyn documentarians present an award winning story of those most vulnerable in what has become a global industry.

"Made in India" takes the viewer on an intimate journey into the world of international surrogacy—one in which documentary filmmakers Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha intend to raise questions rather than provide answers. It follows the lives of an Indian woman and the American couple seeking her services as surrogate.

Along the way, Haimowitz and Sinha reveal the global business that 21st century reproductive technology has created. The film, with sensitivity, clarity and little prying, exposes issues of fairness and safety for the Indian woman in her role as surrogate as well as the lack of information and transparency the infertile couple must deal with when seeking a child. The vulnerability on both sides is staggering. The film just this month won as Best Documentary at the San Francisco Asian Film Festival.

"Made in India" is the first full-length documentary for either filmmaker, who both live in Brooklyn, New York. Haimowitz's earlier short film, "Follow Me," was screened at several international film festivals. Previously Sinha, who comes from Mumbai, India, co-directed a short documentary, "Red Roses," on South Asian women who come to United States for family obligations; and she wrote and directed "Choose Life?" a short narrative on a young woman's personal choice when she finds herself pregnant.

In "Made in India," the filmmakers expose the deliberately misleading and inaccurate information that men and women involved in the reproductive outsourcing business on both sides of the world provide their clients. They uncover deceitful practices especially around issues concerning fees and compensation.

The middle class American couple in the film have turned to the more affordable alternative of foreign surrogacy to have a biological child.  They have already experienced the financial hardship and emotional burden of infertility treatments and now must cope with several expensive trips to Mumbai and the skeptical concerns of their family back home. The life of the woman serving as surrogate is closely observed from her initial decision to provide income for her family to her pregnancy with twins and their premature birth.  Both parties struggle with the complications of a system without standards, laws or regulations.

The complications of having a child through surrogacy—in a country without the legal mechanism to protect the human rights of not only the surrogate mother and genetic parents but also the newborn child—are endless. The tale captured in this film is surely not the worst case scenario. Other possible calamities arise from such an unregulated international business deal. What happens when the baby born is disabled or the woman who is the surrogate has health complications after the birth? Who is responsible for the medical bills? What does a couple do when their new baby is not allowed to leave the country of birth? In this film, we see the U.S. Embassy called in to assist the couple in attaining birth certificates for their newborn daughters.

The surrogacy business has exploded in India since the film began production in 2007, with some estimating that the reproductive tourism industry’s value has exceeded an annual 450 million dollars. With evolving technology and an increasingly global economy, the industry is now expanding to countries such as Panama, Lithuania and Ukraine with no regulatory policies or laws in place.

Distributed by Women Make Movies, "Made in India" is traveling the United States in community and university screenings. Its Indian premier was in New Delhi, and dubbing in Hindi is underway to provide opportunities for wider viewing. Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha are also developing plans for a U.S. television broadcast. Click here for information on upcoming screenings. 

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