As discussed earlier in this blog, the skin color is a symbolic representation of social strata, in India. Not only while selecting the brides but also during the selection of surrogated mothers! According to researchers surrogate mothers still face discrimination over their caste, skin colour and attractiveness despite the fact that the foetus they carry has none of their own genetic material.
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 gynaecologists.
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.
"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 (£1,155) more. It's caste or religious prejudice and notional ideas or what is acceptable and unacceptable," said Deepa, programme coordinator at SAMA.
She said that while the surrogate mother merely gestates the foetus 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.'
Dr Naina Patel, who runs one of India's most successful fertility clinics in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, said she does receive requests for surrogates to be of specific castes or religions, but once parents understand the surrogate's background will not influence the appearance of their child they usually accept any healthy and stable woman.
The fairness syndrome in India is age old and embedded in the social system via 300 years of colonial rule. The apathy of ‘fair is better’ reflects Indian diasporas of social system.