Yesterday a Facebook page, ‘Bashtry Ragel’ (buying a man), was created by an unmarried 40-year old Egyptian woman expressing her desire to find a sperm donor in order to have a baby. On this page she has shared her story; her hopes and dreams of becoming pregnant despite the fact that she has been unable to find a partner to marry and create a family with. She is a successful working woman, living comfortably, but the lack of a child has created a feeling that she is missing something in her life. What is clear is that her desire to experience motherhood is a huge driving force, pushing her to take the difficult decision to seek a sperm donor, something not commonly accepted in Egypt.
In just 24 hours, the page has received nearly 3,000 likes and a video, in which she tells her story with her face covered in shadow to protect her identity, has received over 119,000 views. In the midst of all this attention online, the page has received many comments and posts showing support and compassion for her decision, however there is also a great deal of anger and controversy. The anger towards her online calls for a sperm donor reached such a level that the original Facebook page, (also made yesterday) was actually reported and shut down by Facebook, forcing this unknown woman to make a second page- the one that we are currently able to access.
Screenshots: Bashtry Ragel Video
Despite the negativity that she has faced, this woman continues to hold on to the positive support and seems very committed to her decision to pursue artificial insemination. She has even used the page to name and shame the haters, taking screenshots of the negative and insulting comments and posting them onto the page in an effort to challenge them. In an attempt to emphasize the support, she has also posted the positive comments that she has received such as this:
‘Bashtry Ragel’ appears to be challenging two huge social pressures at the same time. Firstly, the idea that a woman needs a man to raise a child. Many of the comments ask ‘why aren’t you married?’, and ‘why are you trying to have a baby if you don’t have a husband?’ condemning her for attempting to pursue motherhood without a father figure by her side. Being a single mother even through divorce is often looked down upon, let alone being a single mother from the time of conception as in this instance. The other social taboo being challenged relates to her method of getting pregnant. Although a quick Google search reveals that sperm donors are alive and active in Egypt, with a number of organizations aiming to match donors up with individuals longing to become parents, the idea of artificial insemination is generally perceived negatively in Egypt. However with fertility problems in Egypt estimated to affect nearly 10% of the population, a number expected to rise, it is likely that more and more individuals will have to turn to methods such as this in order to conceive.
Whilst this woman may have been naive to not expect this level of online backlash, it is important for individuals such as her to be vocal in order trigger important conversations within our society so that we can start breaking down these negative stereotypes. Hopefully these types of conversations will make us realise that it is essential for us to focus our attention on the wellbeing of the children being born as opposed to the life decisions of the parents. If a healthy child is born into a loving home that is able to provide for it, what more could we want?