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Surrogacy? Not in Kuwait!
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.

But 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 parents.

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.”

Such 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 to occur.

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. (Albawaba.com)

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