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New UAE law change allows surrogacy: What you need to know

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In a recent amendment in law, the UAE now allows people to opt for childbirth through surrogacy, something that was previously not an option in the country. According to legal experts, the amendment in federal law has ushered in ‘groundbreaking changes’, signifying a notable shift in the country’s approach to reproductive techniques.

Surrogacy is a process in which a woman agrees to carry and deliver a baby for a couple or an individual.

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“Notable amendments (in UAE law) include extending medically assisted reproduction techniques (IVF) to non-Muslim parties without a marriage certificate, permitting surrogacy, and allowing unmarried couples access to fertilisations and implantation procedures,” said Manasi Dicholkar, Legal Associate at Khalifa Bin Huwaidan Alketbi Advocates & Legal Consultants.

But what does this mean for couples in the UAE? Khaleej Times unpacks everything known about the law so far with James Clarke, Of Counsel at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem & Associates LLP.

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What does the law specify?

Unmarried and non-Muslim couples can utilise the law after applying to relevant regulators, according to Clarke. “[They] may now access any of the lawful assisted conception and reproduction services within the country, including surrogacy.”

He noted that regulators will monitor the process in each emirate. “Such services will be subject to the regulation of each relevant regulator in each emirate of the UAE, and provided always that the relevant eggs and sperm are taken from the couple concerned,” he said.

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“Egg and sperm banks remain illegal. It is noteworthy that there is no new law specifically enabling surrogacy; the text of the prior law preventing surrogacy has simply been removed. The old law prohibited the practice of ‘external insemination between a sperm taken from the husband and an egg taken from the wife, then implanting the fertilised egg in the womb of another wife of the husband’. The new law leaves the regulation of surrogacy to each emirate.”

Who is the law applicable to?

According to Clarke, the law applies to Emiratis and Muslim and non-Muslim expats. However, only non-Muslims may use the relevant services while unmarried upon application to the relevant regulator under Article 8(2) of the new law. For couples where one or both partners are Muslim, marriage is a prerequisite to access the services.

Who can be a surrogate?

“There is nothing stated in the present law around how surrogates would be chosen, and no specific criteria have been published,” Clarke explained.

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“Access to such services will be regulated in each case by the relevant regulator, and it remains to be seen what approach will be taken in each emirate and whether there will be any divergence in approach.”

Unmarried non-Muslim couples looking for surrogacy must undergo a key legal step, which involves obtaining approval for their application from the relevant regulator, as mandated by the federal requirements. This will be in addition to any further requirements that may be set at individual emirate level.

What does this mean for couples in the UAE?

The revised laws now provide couples with significantly expanded and more flexible options compared to the previous regulations. However, the detail of how these changes will affect the options available in practice remains to be seen, as each emirate’s approach to regulation becomes established. Once the position is clear, couples will be able to review their options and begin making decisions.

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