Childlessness, Medically Assisted Procreation and Islām

Federica Sona’s project began as an individual interdisciplinary study, jointly funded by the Laboratory of Fundamental Rights (LDF) in Turin and the Law & Anthropology Department, exploring the remedies to involuntary childlessness pursued by Muslim intended parents. More specifically, within the framework of a broader discourse on bioethics, the study investigates prospective Muslim parents’ right to a private family life as enacted within the boundaries of Islamic provisions, on the one hand, and Italian domestic law, on the other. 

Scrutinizing the potential or actual implementation of Islamically compliant remedies to involuntary childlessness, ideas of parenthood and childhood within local Muslim communities are brought into focus. Alternative routes to parenting and creative patterns of filiation are also researched in view of current interpretations of sharīʿah, as favoured by prospective Muslim fathers and mothers.

Against the backdrop of the progressive pluralization of parenthood and childhood patterns, reproductive and procreative technologies are to be specifically taken into consideration, as fertility treatments can indeed be supported, accommodated, or rejected by Islamic scholars and national legal systems. Coexisting, partially overlapping legal systems and normative orders thus ultimately affect the agency of Muslim intended parents as well as healthcare professionals providing reproductive and biotechnological medical treatments.

Carefully examining the relationships between personnel at fertility clinics and prospective Muslim parents, the study documents and evaluates healthcare providers’ perceptions and Muslim patients’ distinct, sometimes unspoken, wishes and needs in Italy, where fertility clinics’ staff members are required to manage increasingly diverse and international patients. Relying upon scholarly and legal documents, empirical investigations, and in-depth analysis of qualitative and quantitative field data, Sona intends to offer decoding tools for academic purposes as well as for healthcare providers and religious scholars who are coping with plural kinship frameworks on a daily basis. Paying specific attention to principles and praxes as understood and implemented in local Muslim realities, this project also aims to shed light on possibly partially concealed "old–new" kinship dynamics leading to imaginative family constellations.

Main publications:

Sona, Federica. New parenthood and childhood patterns. Principles and praxes in Muslim realities. Foreword by Vladimiro Zagrebelsky and Marie-Claire Foblets. Bologna: Il Mulino, 2019.

Sona, Federica. Nuove forme di filiazione e genitorialità. Principi e prassi nelle realtà musulmane. Torino: Fondazione Collegio Carlo Alberto, 2020.

Related outcomes:

International conference organisation on “Biomedical practices in the Middle East and Europe: The impact of religion and culture” alongside the Director of the MPI Law & Anthropology Dept. (Prof. Marie-Claire Foblets) and the Director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute (Prof. Shai Lavi). The papers presented during this international conference - to be held in webinar format due to Covid-19 policies - will be published in a co-edited essay collection, Routledge Law and anthropology Series, TBA.

Related projects:

“Sharīʿah-compliant reproductive biotechnologies at the crossroads of laws, ethics, and pragmatism”, as part of the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World, at the Harvard Law School, Harvard University, Cambridge (USA).

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