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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 18 Oct 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Eighty Four Percent Muslim Women of Kerala, India, Are Totally Against Under-18 Marriage

New Age Islam News Bureau

18 Oct 2013

The four policewomen from Dubai police who have received VIP protection training parading the skills they have acquired


 Dubai Policewomen Get VIP Protection Training

 Safe Place for Unwanted Babies Orphan Care Foundation, Malaysia

 Fashion Still a Passion for Some Iranians 

 Azerbaijani First Lady supports events marking Eid-al Adha in Pakistan

 Saudi Police Rescue 16 Indonesian Women Workers

 Children Forced To Work at Holy Sites during Haj

 Orthodox Church Slams Surrogacy as 'Mutiny against God', Seeks Legal Ban

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau





84% Muslim Women of Kerala, India, Are Totally Against Under-18 Marriage

TNN | Oct 18, 2013

The Times of India-Ipsos Survey shows that most Muslims in Kerala are categorically against underage marriage. The majority of respondents in the survey consider it nothing less than sacrilegious to insist, as the clergy and a conservative minority within the community do, that attaining puberty is the main criterion for a girl's marriage. They also inextricably link the extent of a girl's education, job prospects and financial independence with a meaningful married life.

As many as 83% of the respondents oppose the proposition that attaining puberty makes a girl ready for marriage, with a gender-based break up showing that 84% women and 81% men are against it. Significantly, the mixed gender percentage which opposes underage marriage is around 90% in Muslim-majority Malappuram.

Ipsos, a leading global market research agency,conductedthesurvey between October 3 and 9, 2013. A structured questionnaire was administered to men and women in the age groups of 16-25 and 35-50 and involved 80 respondents each in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram and 100 respondents each in Kozhikode and Malappuram.

Crucially, in order to eliminate hidden biasesthat may havebeen presentin the questions asked and to avoid outsiders, however well-intentioned, sitting in judgment of the community, we shared the survey's findings with a number of prominent Muslim men and women to get their opinion. Uneasy liaison: Social orthodoxy & progress

As it is, underage marriage is widely prevalent in India across communities and, what is more, enjoys tacit official sanction. In Kerala, official connivance is, if anything, more pronounced.

In June this year, the social welfare department issued a circular directing local bodies to allow registration of marriages of girls below 18 and men below 21.

A series of high-profile stories by TOI forced the issue into public spotlight and pressured the government to revise the circular. But conservative organizations continue to demand legitimacy for under-18 marriage for girls.

To what extent these organizations represent the views of the community is questionable, which is why TOI decided to embark on a survey that would focus on disparate individuals from a cross-section of the community and across geographical locales.

Strangely, while most respondents in the survey were unambiguous in opposing underage marriage per se, they seemed reluctant to acknowledge the logical conclusions of such a stand. For instance, most of the women respondents in the 16-25 age group were clearly drawn to the idea of personal freedom that entailed, say, freer mingling with the opposite sex and unsupervised use of mobile phones and internet, but only 2% in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Malappuram and 8% in Kozhikode linked such freedom with the ability to decide for themselves on marriage and career.

Even fewer respondents wanted personal freedom to include travelling outside the state or grooming themselves for a social leadership role.

The survey highlighted other contrasts too, notably in sartorial preference: an astounding 91% in Thiruvananthapuram and 94% in Kochi were against western clothes.

In the final analysis, the TOI-Ipsos survey has captured a community in transition and, as with any community with such heritage, complexity and variegation as the Muslims of Kerala, the data, even as it demolishes stereotypes, defies easy answers or simple solutions.

69% aware of U-18 marriages of friends, kin

Amajority (69%) of those who participated in the TOI-Ipsos survey said they were aware of under-18 marriages involving relatives or friends.

The same set of people opposed underage marriages and also disagreed to the tenet that attainting puberty makes a girl ready for marriage. While 75% of respondents in Kochi said that they knew girls who had tied the knot before 18, 69% in Thiruvananthapuram were aware of such marriages taking place.

In comparison, in Malappuram and Kozhikode only 69% and 66%, respectively, knew of underage marriages. While around 71% people in the older age group (35-50 years) knew women who got married before 18, 67% in the younger age group (16-25 years) said that they knew about underage marriages.

A majority of the respondents vehemently said that getting married before 18 years would not get rid of sexual frustration. A section of clerics supporting underage marriages has been arguing that early marriages will also not make youths go astray. While 69% of respondents said getting married before 18 will not get rid of sexual frustration, in Kochi 38% were undecided on the issue. While 68% women disagreed, 71% men, in the survey, rubbished this argument. Those polled in Thiruvananthapuram also rubbished this proposition with 85% of them saying marrying before 18 is not a solution to get rid of sexual frustration. In Malappuram and Kozhikode too, 77% and 65% of people, respectively, turned down the argument.



Dubai policewomen get VIP protection training

October 18, 2013

Dubai: Four policewomen from Dubai police VIP protection unit have taken to motorcycle driving training and the protection of individuals.

The number of highly skilled policewomen working in the VIP protection unit is 39.

Colonel Abdullah Khalifa, the unit’s director, said the four new policewomen will go through a course which will further train them in driving motorcycles and self-protection techniques. He said the new recruits are highly capable individuals.

He said the policewomen department carried out 110 missions since the beginning of 2013, 15 of which were for protecting high-profile personalities, 44 missions for protecting celebrations, 24 for guarding and protecting VIPs, 18 sports championships, 6 conferences, and 3 exhibitions.

He said the number of missions these policewomen carried out last year were 220, which included the protection of VIPs and other important tasks.

All this, he said, reflects the high trust instilled by the country’s leadership in the members of this unit.

Captain Masoud Ebrahim Ahmad, head of the policewomen section, praised the efficiency and readiness of these women who have carried out all their tasks with great precision and accuracy. He said they are highly skilled and can adapt to the most difficult circumstances while carrying out their duty.

On his part, Captain Abdul Aziz Ebrahim Ahmad from the backup and training section said the policewomen were highly efficient, and that was very clear during their training. He said these women endured harsh environment during their training that was very similar to the training of policemen. The only difference, he added, was that these policewomen had less training hours than the policemen.

Nadia Yousif Al Thuwaini said that after 15 years of her service in the force, she finds that the community has changed in its outlook to women working in this field. She said the community is more receptive to the fact that women are joining in areas of service that were set aside for men only in the past.

She said all this has become possible due to the support and backing of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who has always affirmed the role of UAE women in building the community side by side with men.



Safe Place For Unwanted Babies Orphan Care Foundation, Malaysia


October 18, 2013

PETALING JAYA: Once criticised for further encouraging social ills, Malaysia’s first baby hatches are proving to be a way out of the woods for many a new mother who cannot or does not want to keep her child.

Four years since its inception in 2009, 133 babies have been received at its three centres in Johor Baru, Kota Baru and here. And the number has been growing by some three babies every month.

The OrphanCare Foundation, which runs the centres, said the women who left their babies at the centres were between the ages of 15 and 32. Most girls say their parents were unaware that they were even pregnant.

“There are many cases where the parents do not even realise their daughters are pregnant, even when they are living in the same house,” said the foundation’s trustee, Noraini Hashim.

Most of the babies, she said, were given up by young mothers because they were afraid to tell their parents and families.

“We have always advocated celibacy but we want people to know that if they do get pregnant out of wedlock and don’t wish to keep the child, there is a safe place here for the baby instead of dumping the child elsewhere,” she said.

According to figures from the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), some 257,000 babies were born out of wedlock in the country from 2002 to 2012.

A survey conducted by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, meanwhile, indicated that over 10% of secondary school students were sexually active, with many of them having had multiple sex partners.

Of the 133 babies left at the three baby hatches, 50 of the young mothers had a change of heart and decided to keep their babies after speaking to counsellors there.

The centres took in 83 babies, all of whom have since been adopted. Of the babies received, 52 were Malay, four Indian, two Chinese and 16 other races. The races of another nine were undetermined as they were left there by mothers who wanted to remain anonymous.

Forty-five were girls and 38 were boys.

At the baby hatch, there is a small air-conditioned space to place the baby outside the premises. The mother has to open the door, place the baby in the space and shut the door, after which an alarm goes off to alert the staff.

Noraini said she was surprised that only nine of the babies had actually been left in the hatch by mothers who preferred to remain anonymous.

“All the other women, who usually come alone or with friends or even with one parent, enter the centre, speak to us and provide us with the necessary documentation for the baby.

“This makes the adoption process much easier as we would also know the race and religion of the child.

“We first try to convince them to keep their babies, especially if they are in stable relationships and plan to eventually marry their partners,” she said.

After the baby is taken from the hatch, the foundation gets its doctors to conduct a full medical check-up after which the baby is given up for adoption.

The priority is given to couples who have been married for more than five years and do not have children.



Fashion still a passion for some Iranians 


October 18, 2013

TEHRAN, Iran -- TEHRAN, Iran _Honey Badloo sashays through the streets of her beloved Tehran determined to find opportunity where Westerners see oppression.

True, the aspiring model and designer strolled the catwalk only once before Iranian authorities banned fashion shows. And, no, her first magazine cover never made it past government censors.

But Persian style stretches back thousands of years, Badloo says with pride, and not even the austere regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can separate Iranians from their Gucci.

"Our Mr. President doesn't like us to work on fashion," said Badloo, 21, pouting her carefully painted lips. "But anyone you put in a cage wants to know what it's like outside. Who's Paris Hilton? Who's Brad Pitt? What are the styles outside of Iran?"

These are rough times for Tehran's fashionistas, but style-conscious young Iranians are turning to satellite channels, clandestine trunk shows and smuggled copies of Vogue to keep up with haute couture outside the conservative Islamic republic.

Even as Ahmadinejad's hard-line government warns of a new crackdown on dress code violations—women must cover their heads, legs and arms—the capital's fashion mavens keep testing the limits with headscarves that inch back a little farther every season. This winter, Badloo seriously pondered whether knee-high vinyl boots counted as covering her legs.

"All the foreigners think we're stuck in chadors out in a desert, but we have everything here," Badloo said, referring to the traditional cloak worn by Muslim women. She flashed a pearly smile and added: "Even Christian Dior."

Fendi bags, Prada shoes and Chanel dresses flood into Iran from Dubai, the Persian Gulf's shopping paradise. Brightly patterned headscarves come from Turkey, sequined tunics from Syria.

To follow the West's changing hemlines, trend-obsessed Iranians tune their televisions to Fashion TV, the international channel devoted exclusively to style. Housewives have made small fortunes hauling back the latest styles from Europe and the United States. Unlicensed vendors send text messages via cell phones to alert loyal customers to coveted new cargo of Calvin Klein watches and Hermes scarves.

"When I go on a trip to Paris, Germany, Sweden, I always buy a lot of clothes to bring back to Iran," said Sara Aliabadi, 23, who was dressed one day in an elegant fitted coat that she asked a local tailor to sew based on a Chanel design. "Even in those places, you see girls wearing long skirts. It's the same thing here. You can maneuver around the restrictions."

Under Iran's previous reform-minded government, there was a small opening for a fashion industry. The acclaimed designer Mahla Zamani staged five runway shows, women's-only events that celebrated the colorful history of Iranian dress. She also started a magazine called Lotus, touted as the first Persian fashion journal, and published five issues, each government-approved before it went to press.

Badloo was one of her top models. Zamani and her models were invited to participate in a fashion show in Italy.

Then came Ahmadinejad's stunning upset in last year's elections, and rumors abounded that his new government would immediately restore the 1979 Islamic revolution era's strict dress code of billowing black chadors and somber colors.

The new government shut down Lotus magazine. Badloo said she was denied permission to attend the fashion show in Italy. The government renewed efforts to keep Western influences out. Google searches for "fashion" or "glamour" result in a red pop-up notice that reads: "Stop. Access to the page has been denied."

Still, there's been no dress code crackdown yet, and the stylish set soldiers on.

"We're definitely more restricted now, but it's hard to stop girls who want to dress up and show off," said Markiz Nekurouh, 17, clutching a gold lame hobo bag that she bought at a local mall after seeing similar metallic accessories on Internet fashion sites.

Now that spring is here, Badloo's government-mandated scarves are floral-print silk confections. She paid $180 for the gigantic Dior sunglasses that perch atop her highlighted hair. Her jeans are Dolce & Gabbana, or at least high-quality knockoffs.

Badloo's lithe body, high cheekbones and straight nose are all natural, she says. The only artificial thing about her is the Western variation of her traditional first name, which is actually Hanyeh, not Honey.

A few months ago, Badloo hired a professional photographer to take portraits for her ever-expanding portfolio. With a guilty giggle, she called them "my un-Islamic pictures." Some photos show her sprawled across a couch with a come-hither look. Others are sultry shots of her in skimpy outfits, her long hair exposed and fluttering in a breeze. Badloo examines them with the eye of a veteran fashion editor.

"I think the sepia tones really bring out the contrasts and texture," she mused.

Badloo knows she stands little chance of ever having the photos published in Iran, so she designs wallpaper, bathroom tiles, lampshades and other household decor while her modeling career is on hold. On the rare occasion she gets depressed over the state of Iran's fashion industry, Badloo drags out her colored pencils and sketchpads and designs colorful alternatives to the country's traditionally dowdy chadors.

She calls Angelina Jolie her fashion icon, but her first inspiration comes from home. The garments she designs jingle with antique coins from the Shah's era, shine with ancient Turkmen buckles and move like the skirts of whirling dervishes. An image of Cyrus the Great adorns one of her first batik patterns.

"If you look at these clothes, you see the geography of Iran," Badloo said, pointing to one of her Kurdish-inspired skirts. "Northern Iran is full of colors, and they use every single one in their designs. We are starting to change here in Tehran. We're going from the grays and browns to sharp colors. Happy colors."

Badloo's mother, Maryaa, who passed her almond-shaped eyes and clear skin to her oldest daughter, was convinced of Badloo's talent when she caught her drawing circles on her stomach with lipstick at age 3.

Badloo's parents invested in painting classes, textile design school and a private English tutor to prepare her for a career in international fashion. They are skeptical now that the Iranian government will ever appreciate their daughter's vibrant inventions and photogenic face.

Badloo knows her time will come.

"One day, I'll have a factory that produces all my own designs, and every single label is going to say `Honey Badloo,' not `Valentino,'" she said. "I'm going to show the world that we have fashion. In fact, we've been in style for 3,000 years."



Azerbaijani First Lady supports events marking Eid-al Adha in Pakistan

18 OCTOBER 2013

By Nigar Orujova

A series of events to mark Eid-al Adha have been held with the support of Azerbaijani First Lady, President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, UNESCO and ISESCO goodwill ambassador Mehriban Aliyeva in Faizabad, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, and Lahor in the Pakistani Panjab province and earthquake-affected Balochistan province.

According to the Azerbaijani embassy in Pakistan, the event, organized at the 400-seat orphanage Anjuman Faiz ul Islam in Faizabad, brought together chairman of the Pakistani Senate committee on national health services, regulations and coordination Zafar Ali Shah, senators Saeeda Iqbal, Nuzhat Sadiq, Najma Hameed, as well as MP of the National Assembly Tahira Aurangzeb, head of the Pakistani Senate administration Iftikhar Ullah Babar, president of the Anjuman Faiz ul Islam Mian Siddique Akbar, senior vice president Aziz Hashmi, intellectuals, public and political figures, and journalists.

Addressing the event, Azerbaijan's ambassador to Pakistan Dashgin Shikarov congratulated the event participants on Eid al-Adha on behalf of First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva. Shikarov provided an insight into successful projects implemented by Aliyeva in Azerbaijan and abroad.

"As part of the humanitarian assistance program for Pakistan, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation had a girls` school built and later reconstructed in Kashmir's city of Muzaffarabad in 2012. In addition, at the initiative and with the support of Mehriban Aliyeva, the Heydar Aliyev Foundation funded a vaccination campaign against hepatitis B in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, organized examinations of cerebral palsy, open heart surgery in clinics located in the same province, blood transfusion in the districts along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and provided financial assistance for the construction of an eye care clinic, animal sacrifice in 2012 in the tribal areas, Panjab province, and arranged Iftar parties for orphans in all provinces of Pakistan on the occasion of the Ramadan in 2012-2013," Shikarov said.

Senators Zafar Ali Shah and Saeeda Iqbal, as well as President of the Anjuman Faiz ul Islam Mian Siddique Akbar expressed gratitude to the Azerbaijani First Lady for her attention to the Pakistani people.

The speakers said the care of Azerbaijan`s First Lady for the orphans indicates her humanity, commitment to Islamic values and contribution to developing relations between the two nations.

The Pakistani Senate's Iftikhar Ullah Babar said he visited Azerbaijan on election day, October 9, noting that the presidential election was democratic, free and transparent, and President Ilham Aliyev was re-elected as head of state with 85 percent of votes.

He also praised the economic reforms in Azerbaijan and projects implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation both in the country and abroad. Children at Anjuman Faiz ul Islam were presented with keepsakes on behalf of Mehriban Aliyeva.

Addressing the event, organized at SOS Village, president of the Azerbaijan-Pakistan Foundation, Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy alumnus Chaudhry Nauman Zafar hailed the relations between the two countries as fraternal.

During the ceremony, organized at the Dera Murad Jamali city, Balochistan province, chairman of the Balochistan parliament Mir Jan Jamali hailed the initiative of the Azerbaijani First Lady, stressing the importance of organizing it in this economically underdeveloped province, which has suffered from earthquakes and terror attacks.

"This is vivid evidence of friendship and brotherhood," he said.

A total of 200 cows and sheep were sacrificed during the events in Pakistan.

The Heydar Aliyev Foundation started its activity in Pakistan after the earthquake in 2005, when an initiative was launched to build a new modern school for girls in lieu of the destroyed one in Muzaffarabad. The 500-pupil school was built in a mountainous area by 2007.

The foundation regularly provides the school with all necessary means and pays out monthly scholarships to five deserving students of the school. After complete reconstruction and renovation in 2012, the school was named after the First Lady of Azerbaijan.

In 2012 and 2013, Aliyeva initiated a series of healthcare, education and humanitarian projects throughout the provinces of Pakistan.

The foundation also took part in celebrations of World Blood Donor Day in Peshawar. Aliyeva donated one fully equipped ambulance and thousands of blood collection bags to Hamza Foundation, which deals with safe blood transfusion to the beneficiaries on both sides of the Durand Line on voluntary basis.

During the holy month of Ramazan in 2012 and 2013, the foundation hosted iftar dinners to beneficiaries of Pakistan Sweet Home (Pakistan Baitulmal) in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Larkana, Nawabshah, Quetta, Zhob and Peshawar, and Edhi Homes beneficiaries in Islamabad.



Saudi Police Rescue 16 Indonesian Women Workers

October 18, 2013

Manama: Saudi police have rescued 16 Indonesian domestic helpers after they found them stranded in an isolated area.

The women were discovered by a Saudi national who spotted the group of women as he was driving with his family through the area, around five kilometres from a major highway.

“I was shocked by the sight of the women in this isolated area and I drive towards them,” Abdul Rahman Al Harbi said. “When we got near them, my family and I could see that they were scared and worried, especially that it was the end of the day and darkness was about to set in. One of the women was carrying a baby who we discovered was only two months old,” Abdul Rahman told local Arabic daily Al Jazirah.

He added that one of the helpers said that the helpers did not have legal residence documents and that they had been cheated by a smuggler.

“She said that he had promised to drive them from the Saudi capital Riyadh to Makkah, but dropped them off in this isolated area and drove away. They did not have a means to contact anyone. I called the highway patrol and they took care of the women,” Abdul Rahman said.

Online comments condemned the smuggler and urged the police to take stringent action against him for cheating and abusing the helpers.

However, some comments stressed that helpers and other foreigners should be more careful and abide strictly by the law to avoid being cheated or abused.

Traffickers use the Haj (pilgrimage) season in and around Makkah to transport domestic helpers and workers to the sacred city with promises of highly lucrative deals based on the heavy demands for their services.

Around 2.5 million Muslims, including 1.4 million foreigners, congregate in the city in western Saudi Arabia to perform Haj, the fifth and last pillar of Islam required from all physically fit and financially able Muslims at least once in their lifetime.



Children Forced To Work at Holy Sites during Haj

October 18, 2013

Some parents are forcing their children to work and beg at the holy sites, local journalists have discovered.

During a press tour of Arafat and Muzdalifah recently, many children were seen standing behind stalls selling cold drinks, cooked meals, mobile phones, mobile recharge cards, phone chargers, shoes, umbrellas and mattresses.

Dr. Mufleh Al-Qahtani, president of the National Society for Human Rights, urged government officials to tackle this problem. Al-Qahtani said child labour is banned under Saudi labour laws and international human rights charters.

Salah Mohammad, an 8-year-old from Burma, complained to journalists about working in the scorching heat among large piles of rubbish. He said his mother told him the Haj was an excellent opportunity to make money for his family.

“During the Haj season I sell rice my mother cooks, which is preferred by pilgrims from Southeast Asia. I also sell sweets and cold drinks,” he said.

Mohammad, who is in grade two in Al-Rusaifah neighborhood in Makkah, said he makes around SR1, 500 a day, and as much as SR10, 000 at the end of the season. He hands this money to his older brother who transfers it back home to his father who has financial and health problems. He said his father is confined to his home because of the current security situation in Burma.

Fayez Al-Aqil, a human rights activist, said poverty was creating this situation. Often children are also forced to beg under the guise of working.

He said many parents and family members are not educated and unaware of the grave health and psychological dangers faced by these children.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Sibai, a consultant paediatrician, said children are more prone to contract diseases because of their weak immune systems. He said children need different nutrition compared to adults, and over 12 hours of sleep at night. Working among pilgrims was very dangerous because “they can catch many diseases.”



Orthodox Church Slams Surrogacy as 'Mutiny against God', Seeks Legal Ban

October 18, 2013

A representative of the Moscow Patriarchy has blasted surrogacy as “mutiny against God” and “happy fascism,” restarting the controversy after tabloid reports of a celebrity couple who used a surrogate mother to have children.

The comment from the head of the Patriarchy Commission for Family Motherhood and Childhood, Dmitry Smirnov, came after Russian mass media reported that in September 64-year-old Russian pop star Alla Pugachova and her 37-year-old husband Maksim Galkin had two children born through surrogate motherhood.

“I would ban this, of course. We can see that a bad example is contagious,” the senior church representative was quoted as saying by Interfax. “This is mutiny against God, this is very happy fascism with a contract, the money and confiscation of a child.”

The cleric also reminded that the Russian Orthodox Church supported a complete ban on surrogate motherhood in Russia and called on the State Duma to initiate such a move.

The official concept of the Russian Orthodox Church’s social policy calls surrogate motherhood – the agreement in which a woman carries and delivers a child for another person or couple – “unnatural and immoral,” adding that it should not be allowed even in cases where there is no monetary motivation.

A well-known church-backed politician Vitaly Milonov of the St. Petersburg City legislature also condemned Pugacheva and Galkin for using surrogacy.

“I would not congratulate this family with the fact that they had bought themselves a child, that they have enough money. With the fact that they could use some woman as an incubator to carry their child,” Milonov told reporters.

“This is an immoral thing to do in the country that has tens of thousands of orphans waiting to be adopted. Making oneself a neat and clean baby is something akin to buying a new model Ferrari,” said the MP who previously made himself a name as the main sponsor of the law banning the promotion of non-traditional sex relations to minors, known in the mass media as the ‘gay propaganda ban’.

Surrogacy is legal in Russia and according to state news agency RIA Novosti about 500 children are born in the country through this procedure every year. Surrogate mothers must be between 20 and 35 years of age, have at least one child of their own and pass a medical test.  The law guarantees the secrecy to both parties. Prices for the services vary greatly, but it is generally considered that in Russia they are up to one tenth than in Europe and America.

Some other nations, such as Ukraine, South Africa and several states in the USA also allow commercial surrogacy. The UK, Australia, Canada, Israel and several other nations only allow non-commercial surrogacy. Countries like Ireland and Greece have no laws on the subject, leaving it in a gray area.

Surrogate motherhood is legally banned in Austria, Germany, France, Norway and Sweden and in several US states, such as Arizona and Michigan.