Forbidden medically assisted sex selection in Sunni Muslims: a qualitative study

Ya'arit Bokek-Cohen, Mahdi Tarabeih

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Research question: Son preference is a phenomenon typically prevalent in traditional societies in the Middle East and in East and South Asia. Hence, various sex-selection practices, either natural or medically assisted, have emerged. Islamic law forbids medically assisted sex selection for social reasons. Our aim was to examine the narratives of Sunni Muslim couples who underwent sex selection treatment by using sperm sorting and to understand their reasons for doing so. Design: A qualitative phenomenological study involving in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 31 women who gave birth to a male baby after undergoing sperm-sorting treatment, preimplantation genetic testing sex selection, or both, in a private clinic. Results: Interviewees spoke about the ethical dilemma they faced in choosing to violate the religious prohibition against sex selection; they explained the reasons why they opted to undergo sperm-sorting treatment and why the utmost secrecy surrounded it. Conclusions: Some Sunni Muslim couples privately defy the Sunni Muslim orthodoxy on their way to becoming parents to male offspring. Sons are preferred over daughters because of the traditional value attached to male offspring in Muslim culture. Therefore, couples who have only daughters may face an ethical dilemma of whether to obey the religious prohibition against sex selection or to violate it and enjoy societal acceptance and recognition for having a son.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-542
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive BioMedicine Online
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Reproductive Healthcare Ltd.


  • Gender
  • Islam
  • Religion
  • Sex selection
  • Sperm sorting


Dive into the research topics of 'Forbidden medically assisted sex selection in Sunni Muslims: a qualitative study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this