Infertility is a social onus for women in Iran, who are expected to produce children early within marriage. With its estimated 1.5 million infertile couples, Iran is the only Muslim country in which assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) using donor gametes and embryos have been legitimized by religious authorities and passed into law. This has placed Iran, a Shia-dominant country, in a unique position vis-à-vis the Sunni Islamic world, where all forms of gamete donation are strictly prohibited. In this article, we first examine the “Iranian ART revolution” that has allowed donor technologies to be admitted as a form of assisted reproduction. Then we examine the response of Iranian women to their infertility and the profound social pressures they face. We argue that the experience of infertility and its treatment are mediated by women’s socioeconomic position within Iranian society. Many women lack economic access to in vitro fertilization (IVF) technologies and fear the moral consequences of gamete donation. Thus, the benefits of the Iranian ART revolution are mixed: although many Iranian women have been able to overcome their infertility through ARTs, not all women’s lives are improved by these technologies.
The Iranian civil law emphasizes that family is a warm and placid institute founded upon the authority of the husband and the father. Motherhood and doing housework are the woman’s responsibility, and outside work is the man’s; and the man is the breadwinner. Such policies reinforce the traditional patriarchal relations within the family. (Sarokhani and Raf’atjah 2004)