New York: Fair-skinned high caste women are being paid 1,600 dollars more to be surrogate mothers than their dark-skinned, low-caste rivals, an Indian study has revealed.
India has become a medical tourism destination for fertility treatment and surrogacy among both childless Western and Indian couples from around the world.
But according to researchers, surrogate mothers still face discrimination over their caste, skin color and attractiveness despite the fact that the fetus they carry has none of their own genetic material, the New York Daily News reported.
The survey by the women's health charity SAMA, carried out in-depth interviews with surrogate mothers, agents who commission them on behalf of couples suffering fertility problems, and gynecologists.
They found that couples commonly insisted that the woman who carries their child should be beautiful, from their own or similar caste, and have fair skin - similar requirements to those expressed in India's notorious newspaper advertisements for brides and grooms.
Researchers said that the demands reflect wider caste prejudices in India and among the Indian diaspora.
"Parents want someone from the same background in terms of caste and religion. When they are asked 'how does it matter?' they don't explain but they are willing to pay extra - up to one lakh rupees (1864 dollars) more. It's caste or religious prejudice and notional ideas or what is acceptable and unacceptable," Deepa, program coordinator at SAMA said.
She said that while the surrogate mother merely gestates the fetus and does not contribute any of her own DNA to it, commissioning parents still think of her as a mother who contributes her "body and blood" to nourishing their child.
For caste conscious Hindus this could be regarded as "caste pollution."