N. Sarojini, Vrinda Marwah & Anjali Shenoi | Globalization and Health | 12 August 2011
The escalation of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) in India into a veritable fertility industry is the result of a multitude of reasons. This paper places the bio-genetic industry within the larger political economy framework of globalisation and privatisation, thus employing a framework that is often omitted from discussions on ARTs, but has direct and significant bearings on the ART industry in India. As markets for human organs, tissues and reproductive body parts experience unprecedented growth, the limits of what can or should be bought and sold continue to be pushed. As such, bodies have emerged as sale-worthy economic capital. Commercial flows of reproductive material create and deploy the division of the body into parts over which ownership is claimed, in the process following ‘modern routes of capital’ and raising issues of structural inequality.
This paper presents a brief picture of India’s fertility industry with specific focus on its ground-level operation, nature and growth. It aims to explore the industry dimensions of ARTs, by highlighting the macro picture of health care markets and medical tourism in India, the proliferation of the ART industry, market features such as the social imperative to mother, costs, promotion and marketing, unverified claims, inflated success rates, deals and offers, actors and collaborations in the field, and finally, the absence of standards. This paper presents findings from the research ‘Constructing Conceptions: The Mapping of Assisted Reproductive Technologies in India’, by Sama, a Delhi-based resource group working on gender, health and rights. This research was conducted from 2008 to 2010 in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu in India, and is one of the first of its kind, highlighting unethical medical practices and making a case for the regulation of the ART industry. As such, it forms a significant part of Sama’s ongoing work on women and technologies, particularly policy-level advocacy.