Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 08:31 UK

India-Japan baby in legal wrangle

The Japanese baby born to a surrogate Indian mother
The baby is now being looked after by her grandmother

The future of a Japanese baby born to a surrogate Indian mother is uncertain after her parents divorced.

Both the infant's natural and surrogate mothers say they do not want to take custody of her. Her father does, but he is not entitled to under Indian law.

Ikufumi Yamada, 45, and his then-wife Yuki Yamada, 41, signed a surrogacy agreement in November.

The baby was born on 25 July in the western state of Gujarat and is now in a hospital in Jaipur, in Rajasthan.

According to reports, Yuki Yamada no longer wants to adopt the baby. And Indian laws prohibit single men from adopting children.

Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002 but the child born of such an agreement has to be legally adopted by its biological parents.

'Major hassle'

After her mother refused to adopt the baby, the surrogate mother has also left the infant who is admitted to a hospital in Jaipur.

"Doctor Yamada got divorced around mid-June and after his divorce he came alone to claim the custody of the child," news agency Reuters quoted Dr Sanjay Arya, who is looking after the baby, as saying.

"But, according to Indian laws, a single father cannot adopt a girl child. This is the major legal hassle arising in this case.

The Japanese baby born to a surrogate Indian mother with her grandmother
My son loves the baby very much, says the infant's grandmother

"But the question is when the child has 50 percent of its father's DNA, where does the point arise of him having to adopt the child as he is her natural father?"

The baby is now being looked after by Mr Yamada's mother who doesn't speak any Hindi or English.

"My son loves his daughter very much. I shower all my love and affection on this baby. Tears keep rolling down my cheeks all the time," the baby's grandmother told the BBC through an interpreter.

"The grandmother becomes very emotional when she is told that the child cannot be taken out of India. The lawmakers will have to find some solution for this," Dr Arya said.

In the past few years, India has emerged as a major centre for surrogate pregnancies.

The western state of Gujarat is the hub for such births and gets customers regularly from the US, UK and many other countries.

Working as a surrogate mother, or "renting the womb" as it is generally called, can fetch a woman anywhere from $6,250 to $15,000 (250,000 to 600,000 rupees) - a handsome sum for these women who mostly come from poor backgrounds.

Some commentators argue that the Indian government - often criticised for being conservative in relation to family law - has been remarkably free of prudery in its attitude towards surrogacy.

At a time when the practice is still illegal in many countries around the world, India has drafted guidelines giving women the right to a fee for surrogacy.

The proposals are expected to be turned into law soon.

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