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Medically Assisted Reproduction in Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

Sunni and Shia Legal Debates

Journal European Journal of Law Reform, Issue 2 2014
Keywords medically assisted reproduction, Islam, Middle East, family formation, law
Authors Andrea Büchler and Eveline Schneider Kayasseh
AbstractAuthor's information

    Since the mid-1980s, biotechnologies have been widely used to assist human conception around the world, and especially in the Middle East. In this article, our main focus is the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as well as Egypt, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Saudi-Arabia. In these Muslim-majority countries, an ever rising demand for fertility treatments runs parallel to far-reaching demographic and social changes. While assisted reproductive technologies offer various methods to pursue the desire to have biological children, they do also underscore religious and cultural sensibilities about traditional male-female relationships and family formation.
    In order to outline contemporary opinions and state laws and regulations in the countries mentioned in the outset, core notions and concepts of the Islamic family that are relevant for understanding attitudes regarding reproductive medicine and that have influence on couples seeking fertility treatment are outlined. It is also shown how ethical-juridical considerations have shaped the scholarly discourse about assisted reproduction. In this context, assisted reproductive techniques that include eggs, sperm, embryos, or wombs from third parties have been particularly contentious. In fact, there remain different views among Islamic jurists and senior clerics in Shia Islam regarding ethically controversial issues such as egg and sperm donation, as well as surrogate motherhood. While the number of IVF-clinics is on the rise in all countries discussed in this article, only in the UAE are clinics operating with rather comprehensive legislative oversight.


Andrea Büchler
University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Eveline Schneider Kayasseh
University of Zurich, Switzerland.

Charles Freeland
Deputy Secretary General, Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Charles Freeland is writing here in his personal capacity. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the Basel Committee or the Bank for International Settlements.

Daniel Greenberg
Of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister; Parliamentary Counsel. This article is based on observations made by the author in the course of a lecture on statutory construction to the legal advisers to the Lord Chancellor on 10 October 2005. The author is greatly indebted to Saira Salimi of the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for her comments on a troublesomely lengthy series of drafts

Vareen Vanterpool
MA, Advanced Legislative Studies, 2005-2006, School of Advanced Study, Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London. Senior Crown Counsel, Government of the British Virgin Islands.

Pierre Widmer
Professor of Law, Director of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law, Lausanne.
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