Seeking Father’s Details Affects Mother’s Dignity: Court On IVF Technique

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With single women’s right to conceive through Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), like IVF, being recognised, requiring them to furnish father’s name in the form for registering births and deaths of children born through such procedures necessarily affects the right of dignity of the mother as well as the child, the Kerala High Court has said.
The high court said that the state has to provide appropriate forms for registration of births and deaths of children born through such procedures.

“The right of a single parent/unwed mother to conceive by ART having been recognised, prescriptions of forms requiring mentioning of name of father, the details of which is to be kept anonymous, is violative of their fundamental rights of privacy, liberty and dignity,” the court ruled.

The ruling by the high court came on a plea by a divorced woman, who got conceived by In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure, challenging the requirement under the Kerala Registration of Births and Deaths Rules, 1970 to mention the father’s details.

She had said in her petition that she cannot disclose the father’s name as firstly, the identity of the sperm donor is kept anonymous and has not been and could not be disclosed even to her and secondly, such a requirement intrudes upon her right of privacy, liberty and dignity.

She had also contended that issuing a certificate by leaving the column for father’s details as blank also interferes with her right of dignity, privacy and liberty.

Agreeing with the woman’s claims, the high court said rights of a single woman to conceive through ART procedure was recognised and accepted in the country and in such procedures, the identity of the sperm donor cannot be disclosed except in circumstances as may be compelled for, under law.

“It falls within the realm of the “right of privacy”. The said right has also been recognised in the guidelines for ART clinics, with very little exceptions. Under the circumstances, there is no rhyme or reason in requiring the petitioner to provide the name of the father in the form prescribed for registration of birth and death.

“Requiring the petitioner to leave the column regarding the details of father as blank, the issuance of a certificate of birth or certificate of death leaving the space provided therein regarding the details of the father as blank, necessarily affects the right of dignity of the mother as well as the child,” the high court said.

It further said that the right of a single woman/unwed mother, to conceive through ART procedures having been recognised, “the State has to provide appropriate forms for registration of births and deaths of children born through such procedures, and for issuance of birth/death certificates”.

The court said the concept of conceiving through ART was foreign to India a few decades back till the first “test tube baby” was born.

“By the passage of time, evolution of techniques, change in lifestyle and personal choices recognized by the Rule of Law, appropriate modifications/ changes/ additions/ alterations need to be made in statutes, rules and the forms prescribed thereunder,” the court said.

In the instant case, as the petitioner woman was in the 8th month of her pregnancy, the court directed the Kerala government to “immediately” take necessary steps to have separate forms prescribed for registration of births and deaths and for issuance of certificates in cases relating to conception through ART procedure of single parent/ unwed mother.

To prevent misuse of such forms for settling scores in “family feuds”, the court said applicants can be asked to furnish an affidavit that she is a single parent/unwed mother conceived through ART procedure and produce along with the same a copy of medical record in support thereof.

“To such applicants, a separate form, which does not contain the field regarding the name and other details of the father, shall be prescribed. In so far as certificate of death is concerned, it would suffice if in the column where the name of the father or husband is sought for, another entry could be made as that of the mother (like Father / Husband / Mother),” the high court said.

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