In a first of its kind case in the state, the police have begun probing the charges of a minor girl that she was being lured to bear a child as a surrogate mother for a married couple. Police investigations so far have revealed that the girl was first raped by two persons who were known to her, either promising to marry her. She was then introduced to the couple who sought her services as surrogate mother for a fee of Rs 5 lakh. She got raped again under the guise of the surrogacy deal. The case came to light when the victim girl, who had been away from her family for over a year, contacted her family and narrated her ordeal. Her family approached a non-government organisation, which alerted the police, leading to arrest of seven people, including the couple which had sought her services as a surrogate mother. The ‘deal’ for surrogacy was struck allegedly on the basis of forged papers produced by the friend of the girl. As the case appears to be the handiwork of criminally minded elements to ‘introduce’ gullible minors into surrogacy, the police must examine if it is related to wider networks for surrogacy or human trafficking.
Forged papers, notarised by a Vasco-based lawyer, were used to ‘prove’ that the girl was an adult. As there is possibility of there being more such cases, the role of the notary should be probed. The police have to find out who benefitted from the surrogacy deal and whether the girl was paid any amount or the middlemen took everything. It is intriguing that the parents of the minor girl did not feel it appropriate to lodge a missing report with the police since during a whole year of absence from the house. The elements that took advantage of the minor girl’s plight and raped and misled her must be punished. However, the police should find out why her parents failed in their guardianship and allowed criminal elements to take advantage of her situation. It should be examined if they had any role to play. Sometimes poor economic conditions can drive people to acts that seem cruel and inhuman. Parents in dire poverty sell their children for a price just for meeting their routine needs.
The police probe should also focus on whether the right procedure was followed in signing the surrogacy deal. The role of each person in the ‘deal’ has to be probed thoroughly and the scope of probe should be widened to find out whether any organized racket was operating in the state. The case also suggests that the police need to give a special focus on the cases of missing minor children. They could be vulnerable to criminal elements that would be looking to exploit them and get them into domestic and international rackets of surrogacy and prostitution. The instant case is of course even more complex. Here no missing report was filed, so there was no way her disappearance could have become a subject of police investigation. However, this should wake up the police to the need of gathering information about disappearance of young women within their jurisdiction.
There is every possibility of newer tactics being used to sell off gullible young persons, including minors, under the guise of providing jobs. That five people, besides the couple that procured the services of the girl for surrogacy, have been arrested in the alleged crime indicates that there is possibility of them being part of a larger network, which appears to have been guided by some legal expert as the agreement for surrogacy was signed and notarised. Do these persons have links with any organized gang? Surrogacy has become an organized racket in poorer countries such as India. It is something that has grown owing to the connivance of the two parties – childless couples wanting to have children and poor women wanting to have some good money – and the criminal elements are making a kill out of it. Like kidney rackets, the surrogacy rackets have ordinary people involved in criminal actions that they do not consider as criminal because for them it is a question of having a child, something their own biology has denied them. The law however considers it inhuman. So all steps should be taken to curb it and show no leniency. It is surprising that even though stringent provisions under the Goa Children’s Act, the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and other provisions of Criminal Procedure Code were invoked in the Vasco case, one of the rapists and main conspirators was let off on bail.