Promoting Stability of the Family in the Society
Since its inception, the Strathmore Institute of Family Studies and Ethics (IFS) has been very keen in promoting the stability of families within Kenya and beyond. In pursuing this objective, on November 27, 2019, the Institute held a panel discussion titled IVF and Surrogacy: What you need to know. It was the second of a series of three sessions themed Keeping my Family Together. It attracted a panel of four experts from different professional fields: Prof. Ann Muigai, a geneticist, Prof. Marion Mutugi, Vice Chancellor of Amref International University, Dr. Wahome Ngare, a gynaecologist, and Charles Kanjama, advocate and LSK Nairobi Chair. The session was moderated by Lilian Muendo, a senior broadcast journalist at BBC Africa.
IVF and Surrogacy
The ratio of infertility for women currently stands at 30%, 40% for men and the other 30% remains unknown. IVF (In-vitro fertilisation) involves harvesting an ovum from a woman through either hyper-stimulation of hormones or ultra-sound guided harvesting and thereafter fertilising it externally. The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman’s ovulatory process, removing an ovum from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in the laboratory. Surrogacy, on the other hand, applies where a woman has problems with the uterus or is unable to carry a pregnancy to term. In this case, the embryo is introduced into the body of another woman (a surrogate mother).
The panel discussed matters pertaining to IVF and surrogacy such as the hiring of wombs, human trafficking and surrogacy stables, rejection of abnormal babies and selective abortion, selection of qualities (commonly known as designer babies), single-by-choice fathers or mothers, homosexuals and transgender relations and the issues of anonymous sperm and egg donors. At the core of the discussion was the well-being and the dignity of the child vis-a-vis the application of technology in reproductive health. The panel also dealt with the issue of commodification and the available solutions for childless couples.
Legally speaking, legislation around surrogacy and IVF presents legal challenges for those who choose to go ahead with the process of IVF or surrogacy. The law, for instance, does not provide a framework for any other means of motherhood than the natural route. The Constitution of Kenya is clear that life begins at conception. This means that once fertilisation occurs in a petri-dish, then the pre-born child is entitled to statutory rights and recognition under the Children’s Act. However, notwithstanding the constitutional recognition of life, the law in Kenya is tabula rasa on procedures and mechanisms of dealing with such embryos. While it is impossible for the law to foresee all the challenging situations involved in IVF, there is need to provide a framework of guidance since the practice is here with us.
Meeting with Chancellor
Last year, on December 19, 2019, IFS was privileged to meet the Prelate of Opus Dei, and Chancellor of the University, Mons. Fernando Ocáriz, during his recent trip to Kenya in a brief session with other stakeholders interested in the family institution. He said that the institution of the family is the backbone of our society and therefore it should be promoted. He commended the team for the good work in research and urged us to continue serving God through this noble course. The Prelate also prayed for them before taking a few photos.
This January, the Institute will be conducting the last session in this series under the title; Thriving Amidst Evolving Family needs; Strengthening Relationships. This session will be held from 5 pm on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at the Microsoft Auditorium, Strathmore University. More information including booking can be obtained through communication with the Institute through; email@example.com
Besides holding the panel discussions, IFS is looking forward to joining the Bio-Ethics Conference in 2020, collaborating in more interdisciplinary research, an active engagement in family-related education, law and policy input, advocacy and social outreach initiatives in a bid to promote stable families in the society we are living in today. The Institute believes strongly that with stable families, a stable world results hence the need for us all to go back and love their families.
This article was written by Dominic Nyaga, a student at the Strathmore Law School and a volunteer with the Institute.
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