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In prisons around the world, conjugal visits are rarely allowed. But Palestinian women say they're getting around to that by sneaking their husbands' sperm past Israeli prison guards. As NPR's Emily Harris reports, these women see it as an act of resistance.
EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Lidia ar-Rimawi is almost seven months pregnant. She's feeling great - no morning sickness, no other problems, except that her husband is in Israeli prison. He's serving a 25-year sentence for attempted murder during the Second Intifada. Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody are not allowed conjugal visits. Visitors older than 8 aren't supposed to have any physical contact with the prisoners. Still, Lidia says her husband is the father.
LIDIA AR-RIMAWI: (Through translator) We smuggled the sperms from the prison, but we cannot tell you the detail because we want others to have the same opportunity.
HARRIS: All she'll say is she carried it out of the prison herself, and a plastic bag was involved.
LIDIA AR-RIMAWI: (Through translator) Had we waited, then I would be 50 years old until he comes out, and then it's difficult for us to have babies. I'm very happy with the success of the challenge. We challenged the Israeli authorities. We challenged the jailer. Also, the prisoner in jail feels alive and well again. This will boost his morale.
HARRIS: Lidia is part of a micro-trend happening among wives of Palestinian prisoners, sneaking their husbands' sperm out of jail and getting pregnant through artificial insemination.
Dr. Omar Abdel Deyhem opens the curtains of a patient cubicle and turns on an ultrasound machine. Here at the Razan Medical Center in Ramallah, fertility doctors say they have helped the wives of 10 prisoners get pregnant. Forty more viable semen samples are on ice. The clinic covers all costs for prisoner families. Deyhem says people talked about using artificial insemination to help wives of prisoners when this clinic opened 18 years ago, but the first attempt happened only recently.
DR. OMAR ABDEL DEYHEM: (Through translator) A woman came to us from Nablus who wanted to try this. Her husband was serving a life sentence. We immediately told her she needed to make her intentions public. She was gone six months. When she came back, she had a sample of sperm and had publicly declared her plans.
HARRIS: Her baby was born last August. That public declaration of her intent made this allowable in Islam, says Sheik Sayed ar-Rimawi, a local Muslim scholar. He says each woman also needs six witnesses to verify that the sperm smuggling went as planned.
SAYED AR-RIMAWI: (Through translator) We want to make sure the sperm has not been changed, has not been sold, has not been tampered with. We have to make sure it comes from the intended donor to the medical center. Because in Islam, artificial insemination must be between the husband and the wife.
HARRIS: He fully supports artificial insemination for prisoners' wives.
SAYED AR-RIMAWI: (Through translator) This is a very important means of resistance against an occupation which not only imprisons Palestinians but also wants to end their ability to reproduce.
HARRIS: Israeli officials say sneaking sperm out of prison would be a violation of the rules, but they are skeptical it's actually happening. They say without DNA tests, it's impossible to be sure. A spokesperson for the prison system notes that visitors are not usually searched on the way out. Meanwhile, Lidia Rimawi is eager for her son to be born. Her mother-in-law is too.
SAMIYA AR-RIMAWI: (Foreign language spoken)
HARRIS: Our society encourages having children, says Samiya ar-Rimawi. We are peasants, farmers. We love a big family. And I hope his son will be just like him, she says. The family has already picked a name for the prisoner's son, Majd, meaning glory. Emily Harris, NPR News, Jerusalem.
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