“Wider families initially feel pity for you but later expect you to give birth to a baby” - A gendered analysis of the motivations of women seeking fertility treatment in Iran

“Wider families initially feel pity for you but later expect you to give birth to a baby” - A gendered analysis of the motivations of women seeking fertility treatment in Iran

Wednesday, 13 May 2015 - 1:45pm
Venue: 
Library Reading Room at the Middle East Centre, 68 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6JF
Speaker(s): 
Sara Bamdad (University of Warwick)

WOMEN RIGHTS RESEARCH SEMINARS

[A light lunch will be available on a first-come, first-served basis]

Abstract
A historical analysis of the Iranian state’s maternalist policies reveals the imperative of motherhood and women’s restricted decision-making on reproduction. The post-revolutionary state in Iran has stressed the importance of motherhood through various Islamic sayings. In this context the inability to have a child is considered to be a major source of suffering for Iranian couples. Within the logic of bringing happiness and stability to Iranian infertile families and by the endorsement of the supreme leader of Iran, all forms of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs), including third party donation, are legally practiced. Although ARTs are recognised in the feminist literature to bear down more heavily on women’s bodies than men’s, little research has addressed the motivations of Iranian women in seeking fertility treatment, and how they are shaped, or their experiences during the treatment journey.  This paper presents preliminary research to partly address this gap, drawing on semi-structured and in-depth interviews conducted with ten women in an infertility clinic in Iran in 2014.  In some cases the women/couple were facing male factor infertility, in some cases female factor and in some cases both.   The women explained their seeking of treatment in terms of a fervent desire to be a mother, alongside pressure to do so imposed by their husbands, their wider families (in-laws and more distant relatives) and religious/patriotic values. However, the role of their husbands varied in terms of whether he supplied financial and emotional support during the treatment and whether he threatened divorce if he did not become a father.  At the same time the women were expected to maintain secrecy about their infertility treatment, due to social and cultural taboos. 

To see images please click here