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An Ethnographic Study of Surrogate Mothers in India (completed)

This project is an ethnographical study of Indian surrogate mothers, i. e. women who carry and give birth to babies on behalf of others, to a large extent Westeners.

Are the surrogate mothers being exploited or not?


About the project

In order to shed new light on the legitimacy and ethics of the growing, and currently highly debated, transnational surrogacy industry, this project explores Indian surrogate mothers´ experiences and life worlds. Through conducting a long-term ethnographic fieldwork with surrogates in Mumbai, I aim to produce much needed knowledge about the social and cultural processes that influence the Indian women’s partaking in surrogacy. The project draws on anthropological and feminist theoretical writings on power, gender and globalization .


With an ambition to account for both restraining power relations and the agency and subjectivity of the women involved, the project will explore the circumstances under which surrogate mothers are recruited and employed, their reproductive autonomy, their experiences of the process and not least; the short and long term cost attached to it, physically, emotionally and socially.


All findings will be published in an ethnographic monograph. Selected findings will be submitted for publication in international and national journals.


Commercial surrogacy arrangements are either totally or partially prohibited in most Western countries. Liberal legislation, combined with excellent medical facilities and qualified personnel at significantly lower prices than in other countries have made India an attractive alternative for Westeners who wish to have children with the help of a surrogate mother. The scope of gestational surrogacy, i.e. arrangements where the surrogate mother only provides a uterus for gestation, eggs coming from either commissioning mother or an egg donor, has increased dramatically in India in recent years, the demand coming mainly from foreigners.


  • Extrastiftelsen Helse og Rehabilitering via Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association
  • Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo


Based at the Section for medical anthropology and medical history of the Institute of Health and Society, the project is part of the section’s research group Reproductive health: past and present. Advisors to the project are: Heidi E. Fjeld, Anne Kveim Lie, and Sidsel Roalkvam. The project is also part of the research group Transnational surrogacy at LEVE, Center for Development and the Environment, UiO.

Start - Finish

March 2012 - March 2015

Tags: India
Published Mar. 7, 2012 11:49 AM - Last modified Feb. 23, 2018 11:23 AM