Surrogacy is a complex and multifaceted issue that intersects with cultural, religious and social values.
Media, including television, movies, news channels and social platforms, plays a significant role in shaping public opinions and perceptions, influencing social attitudes and debates.
Surrogacy is described and perceived differently in different cultures and cultural attitudes towards surrogacy can be influenced by religious beliefs, traditional values, social norms and stigmas.
The media’s role in shaping narratives around surrogacy is crucial, and as awareness and understanding increases, it can contribute to more inclusive discussions and reduce stigma across diverse cultures. Efforts to foster education and open dialogue can play a significant role in dealing with cultural challenges associated with surrogacy.
Many media representations of surrogacy highlight positive stories of families who have successfully navigated the surrogacy process. These descriptions often emphasize the joy and fulfillment experienced by intended parents and surrogates alike. Positive portrayals contribute to the normalization of surrogacy, presenting it as a viable and compassionate option for individuals and couples facing fertility challenges.
The key differences in the way cultures treat and see surrogacy along with the cultural challenges and stigmas associated with this procedure are set out below.
▪Western culture: In many Western cultures there is a growing acceptance of surrogacy. The media in Western countries often present positive stories about surrogacy, showing the diversity of modern families and celebrating the ability of surrogacy to help individuals or couples, including parents from the LGBT community, to fulfill their dreams of parenthood.
In Western cultures, alienation and resistance to surrogacy can be expressed in different ways. On the one hand, there is a democratic and liberal culture that supports human rights, so there is an approach which sees surrogacy as a field that many women can choose. On the other hand, there is resistance in different countries from a cultural or religious point of view, and in particular towards women who “engage” in this field.
▪ Middle Eastern culture: Surrogacy is often viewed conservatively in many Middle Eastern cultures, where traditional family structures are highly valued. In some Middle Eastern countries, surrogacy may be illegal or restricted, and the media may not discuss or portray surrogacy openly due to cultural sensitivities. However, in Israel for example, surrogacy is legal and there is a higher awareness of the issue in recent years.
▪ South Asian culture: Surrogacy is viewed more cautiously in some South Asian cultures due to traditional family values and social norms. In countries like India, commercial surrogacy was once a booming industry, attracting international intended parents. However, legal and ethical concerns led to a ban on commercial surrogacy for foreigners in India in 2015. At the same time, India has become a popular center for surrogacy and offers couples from all over the world the opportunity to fulfill their dream of becoming parents.
▪ East Asian culture: Cultural attitudes towards surrogacy in East Asia can vary. In some countries such as Japan and China, surrogacy faces legal restrictions, and there may be cultural reservations about non-traditional family structures. The media in East Asian cultures may not widely cover surrogacy, and when it is discussed, it may be framed within legal and moral debates.
▪ African cultures: attitudes towards surrogacy in Africa can be diverse between countries and communities. In some areas, traditional values may conflict with the concept of surrogacy, while others may be more accommodating of surrogacy. The media in Africa may not cover surrogacy extensively, and when it is discussed, it may be done through the lens of cultural and ethical considerations.
Cultural challenges and stigmas associated with surrogacy
▪ Many cultural stigmas related to surrogacy stem from religious beliefs that emphasize traditional family structures. Some religious communities may see surrogacy as contrary to their teachings and moral values.
▪Cultural norms regarding family structures may pose challenges, especially in societies where the extended family plays a significant role and therefore surrogacy may be perceived as disrupting these norms.
▪ In cultures where the biological connection between parents and children is highly valued, gestational surrogacy may face resistance due to the lack of a direct biological connection.
▪ The commercial aspect of surrogacy can be stigmatizing, with concerns about potential exploitation of surrogates, especially in countries where commercial surrogacy is widespread.
▪ Surrogacy challenges traditional gender roles and expectations around motherhood, which leads to cultural stigmas related to women’s roles and the concept of motherhood.
Cultural stigmas can stem from a lack of understanding and misinformation about surrogacy, which is why the media plays a crucial role in shaping public perception with accurate and empathetic descriptions that can contribute to breaking stigmas.