Accepted Paper:

Beyond 'nature-culture': kinship and motherhood in light of egg donation and surrogacy in Iran  


Shirin Naef (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the moral juridical logic and reasoning underlying Shia conceptualisation of motherhood in the context of egg donation and surrogacy in Iran and their social applications.

Paper long abstract:

Assisted reproductive technologies including gamete and embryo donation as well as surrogacy are legal in Iran and are being practiced at Iranian infertility treatment clinics; this is while complying with the laws and regulations regarding its appropriate use has mainly been influenced by Shia juridical moral concerns, particularly with regards to the status of the in vitro human embryo, adultery, incest, marriage, filiation and kinship relations. My research has examined the Iranian debates over assisted reproductive technologies through multi-sited-ethnographic fieldwork conducted since 2005 in Iran combined with a textual approach. While a wide range of opinions exists, many Shia religious authorities consider the use of donated eggs and surrogacy as legitimate infertility treatments, albeit only for heterosexual infertile married couples. In the case of egg donation and surrogacy, the majority of Shia opinion ascribes the maternity to the originator of the egg while some other ascribe it to the woman who gives birth to the child; and, some suggest that the child should be considered to have two real mothers. In this paper, I will primarily analyse these religious legal discourse and focus on the Shia conceptual models of motherhood. I will then address the social uses of this juridical permissibility of assisted reproduction by way of exploring the experiences of egg donation and surrogacy amongst either Iranian women or women from other Muslim-majority countries like Iraq and Afghanistan seeking infertility treatments in Iran.

Panel P106
Rethinking assisted conception: dynamics of law, morality and religion