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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Egypt clerics ban surrogate mothers
graphic
By Caroline Hawley in Cairo

Muslic clerics in Egypt have banned women from acting as surrogate mothers or from receiving frozen sperm from dead husbands.

The decree was given by a committee of Islamic experts headed by Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Al-Azhar, which is the highest religious authority for Sunni Muslims.


The practice is illegal, whether it involves placing a spermatozoid, a fertilized egg or a foetus in the uterus

Clerics' decree
The new fatwa declares carrying another woman's baby un-Islamic because it violates the bonds of marriage.

The same, it says, goes for insemination of a widow with frozen sperm from her husband.

The decree states that death breaks the ties between husband and wife, which would mean the woman was becoming pregnant by someone she wasn't married to.

Artificial insemination is becoming increasingly common in Egypt, and over the past few years at least three sperm banks have also been set up.

But experts say they're mainly used for men undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy who hope to father children while they're still alive.

Ethics

There's no indication of how much demand there actually is for posthumous pregnancy or for surrogate motherhood.

But fatwas are usually pronounced either when the religious authorities are asked for a ruling or when they want to head off what they see as a problem.

In recent years, medical advances have thrown up a series of ethical dilemmas for Muslim scholars.

There's been a long and intense debate in Egypt over organ transplants.

Under Egyptian law, kidneys can now be taken from the living but not from the dead.

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See also:

01 Sep 00 | Middle East
Egypt dials up for spiritual help
12 Mar 00 | Middle East
'New era' for Egyptian women
17 Jun 00 | Middle East
Egyptian writer on trial over religion
21 Sep 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Egypt
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