Shany Russell, a 28-year-old
surrogate mother from Canada, had no idea that Islamic law
strictly forbids surrogacy when she agreed to help a Kuwaiti
couple have a baby they themselves could not conceive.
According to press reports from Canada, through a mediating
process with an American lawyer, she reached an agreement to
carry the coveted embryo and give birth to it – all for the
sum of $10,000.
Ready to proceed with the terms of the
contract she had signed in Canada, Russell arrived in Kuwait
City where she met the couple. Soon after, she started the
procedure to have the couple’s baby. Unfortunately, the
insertion of the embryo failed and it died. She then wanted to
leave the country and carry on the terms of the agreement from
Canada. The Kuwaiti family never mentioned to her the fact
that surrogate motherhood is forbidden in Kuwait.
upon arriving at the Canadian embassy, she was told about the
strict laws banning surrogacy. By sheer luck, she managed to
escape a trial. Had the Kuwaiti authorities caught her and
decided to press charges, it is possible that she might have
ended up in jail.
Surrogacy is an arrangement through
which couples that cannot have children engage someone to bear
a child for them. The surrogate mother carries the baby
through the antenatal period, and after giving birth she is to
hand the baby over to the soliciting couple, the legal
Nowadays, the demand for surrogate mothers
has created a bustling market. In fact, the market has further
fueled demand, resulting in the establishment of agencies,
which have been opened for the sole purpose of promoting
surrogate motherhood as a business enterprises!
According to an article titled Bioethics:
“Obstetrics and Gynecology” (published in
www.islamset.com), for the first time in human history, being
a mother is not a value any longer, but rather a product, to
which a price tag is attached. This idea is seen as too
dehumanizing for Islamic society, and has been raising many
eyebrows: “Surrogacy is not acceptable to Islam, on the
premises that pregnancy should be a fruit on the tree of a
legitimate marriage,” according to the article.
Moreover, in a symposium on “Reproduction in the Light
of Islam” held by the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences
in Kuwait during the mid-1980s, it was agreed that a child is
to be born during a couple’s marriage, and without the
intrusion of another party. Or, as the Quran states: “None can
be their mothers except those who gave them birth” (58:2).
In a recent question about Islamic religious edicts,
or fatwas, addressed to IslamOnline.net, relating to the issue
of surrogate motherhood, the writer considers a surrogate
mother haram, or forbidden, “because she is inserting an alien
man’s sperms into her womb without marriage.”
comments, together with the legal framework, indicate that the
consensus in Muslim society to date is that surrogate
motherhood violates the bonds of matrimony, the holiest
institution in society, and therefore should be banned.
Not surprisingly, Kuwait is not alone in strictly
banning surrogacy. Egypt’s leading Islamic clerics have banned
women from acting as surrogate mothers as well. “Sheikh
Mohammad Sayed Tantawi of the Azhar, Sunnite Islam’s highest
authority, and other clerics issued a fatwa against such
practices, saying they violate the bonds of matrimony….the
fatwa forbids use of a woman’s uterus to place sperm from a
man other than her husband…”
The international law
community has been debating this issue for a long time, but so
far has not come up with clear, specific legislation regarding
the practice. At the moment, surrogate motherhood still falls
within the gray area of the law, which permits such incidents
That is not to say that Muslim clerics are
alone in their distrust of the idea of selling womb time. In
the US, for example, five states and the District of Columbia
find surrogacy arrangements to be either unlawful or will find
the agreements unenforceable, according to an infertility
guide at www.ops.com.
Luckily for Shany Russell, her
ignorance of Muslim values and the deceit of her Kuwaiti
employers did not result in a jail term. A five-minute
internet search - or some competent legal advice - might have
made all the difference. Her sheer naivete, as well as the
chance to earn $10,000 brought her to Kuwait. However, her
experience there may have taught her the lesson of a lifetime.