Unraveling the fertility industry

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Publication Date: 
Wed, 2010-03-31

Challenges and strategies for movement building

Report on International Consultation on Commercial, Economic and Ethical Aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs)

By Shree Mulay

Sama - Resource Group for Women and Health in Delhi, India has had a long standing engagement with women’s health and women’s rights especially in the realm of coercive population policies, hazardous contraceptive technologies and medicalization of women’s bodies. In the last seven years they have turned their attention to reproductive technologies and their impact on women’s lives and have engaged in a dialogue with the government on proposed legislation on Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs). They have raised issues of reproductive tourism and surrogacy and the complex ethical issues that emerge from the links between health, society and technology. Sama organized a three-day international Consultation from January 22-24, 2010 with over 90 participants with representation from more than 10 countries who came together to discuss issues and concerns around the proliferation, and normalization of the industry of ARTs. The participants included activists, scholars and researchers from different movements, different political, social and economic contexts, especially from those countries that are experiencing the implications of these technologies. Journalists, film makers and students were also part of the Consultation.
Discussions ranged from overviews of the current global political economy context, followed by region-specific sessions that brought in local experiences from countries that are facing the implications of these technologies. Each day concluded with a discussion on the possible strategies for movement building, which were then further consolidated in the final session on the last day.

Some of the main points that emerged from the presentations were:
• The interaction of technologies with poverty, business and commerce, religion, race/ethnicity, class and patriarchy in various contexts around the globe. The inter-linkages of ARTs with the growing field of biotechnology industry and the resulting consequences.
• The differential perspectives of the states/governments towards these technologies across the globe, the roles assumed by them in dealing with these technologies, and the underlying reasons for these.

• The failure of the public health systems and policies to address the underlying causes of infertility including impact of occupational patterns, environmental changes, lifestyle changes that negatively affect fertility levels, and create conditions where people have to resort to the use of these technologies.

• Discussion of strategies developed by activists and groups across the globe working on these concerns, the outcomes, and the challenges faced by them.

Some outcomes of the Consultation:

• Participants from across the globe were able to dialogue/debate and share perspectives/commonalities and identify the differences on these issues.

• Concrete strategies emerged towards a movement building at the global level, including for the South Asian regional context.

• The Consultation was able to build and strengthen inter-linkages with other movements and networks working on issues of health, women’s rights, sexual rights, disability rights, child rights, law, and bioethics, among others.

• Sama initiated an e-group for all the Consultation participants, to facilitate continued discussions of efforts at the local level, to connect and reflect collectively and to plan and share strategies for action at the global level.

• A small group/collective was formed to take the strategies discussed at the Consultation forward in a sustained manner.

• A detailed report based on all the discussions over the three days, including the diverse contexts and experiences, the major challenges articulated as well as some of the strategies that emerged is expected to be finalized soon.

Report based on a summary from the Sama Workshop.

Shree Mulay participated in the International Consultation on Commercial, Economic and Ethical Aspects of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) and is currently on the board of Canadian Women’s Health Network.

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