Jake Richards awarded Pegasus Scholarship

24 Jun, 2019

Jake Richards has been awarded the Pegasus Scholarship from Inner Temple, to undertake research in India on surrogacy law. Jake will be travelling across India to explore the moral and ethical issues that surround the Indian legal approach to the regulation of surrogacy. Jake has written extensively on the subject, and previously won an award from the Bar Council for an essay advocating reform of our domestic surrogacy laws.

Prime Minister Modi has recently passed legislation dramatically reforming Indian surrogacy laws, banning commercial surrogacy and surrogacy for homosexual couples and single parents. The Indian surrogacy market was previously unregulated and worth over $2 Billion (USD) each year. The changes are designed to protect surrogates. However, there are concerns that an unregulated 'black market' may emerge instead, without any welfare checks.

Further, the new laws face the prospect of challenges in the Indian Supreme Court on the basis that it is inconsistent with the basic constitutional requirements of equality, liberty and freedom of rights. For example, Article 14 of the Indian constitution guarantees “equality before the law and equal protection of laws to all persons”. Accordingly, a law that only allows married couples to use surrogacy appears to be problematic.

Jake's research will also assess the practical effect on women, many of whom benefit economically from the surrogacy market. Article 21 of the Constitution provides for a right of livelihood and a right to reproductive autonomy. The ban on surrogacy will prevent millions of women who have escaped poverty, enabling them to be educated or start businesses, through surrogacy. Many feminist campaigners argue that the new laws will suppress these already vulnerable women. Others say the law is necessary to protect women who are forced to become surrogates due to their poverty.

Jake will be meeting with lawyers, academics, political campaigners and surrogates themselves to understand the debates that surround this change in the law. The political context - with BJP Leader Modi recently re-elected amidst increasing protest following high-profile cases of rape across the country - means Jake's research will also offer an insight into the wider Indian women's rights movement, feminist debate and gender politics in India.

Jake will be in chambers and available for instructions until further notice.


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