A Conversation with Columbia Law School Visiting Scholar, Tamar Katz Peled

Posted on August 22nd, 2017 by Elizabeth Boylan

This Summer, Tamar Katz Peled joined the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law as a Visiting Scholar.  I spoke with Tamar 2 weeks ago about her research, and her plans for pursuing further inquiry and advocacy work in her primary field of study: reproductive surrogacy, and reproductive access in legal and social contexts.  Below is a transcript of this conversation.

For more information on the Visiting Scholars Program at Columbia Law School, visit Columbia Law School’s International Programs Page

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E.B.: Welcome on board – – Upon learning about your work, we were excited to support you as a Visiting Scholar at Columbia Law School.  Thank you for joining us and taking time to discuss your work.

T.K.P.: First and foremost, it is a great pleasure for me to be a Visiting Scholar with the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. This center represents a spiritual homeland for my heart and mind: All my fields of interests that include my academic education, research work and the courses I teach are synonymous with the Center’s work.

E.B.: While visiting with the Center and Columbia Law School, what do you seek to accomplish?

T.K.P.: My work concentrates primarily on the mutual influences between gender and sexuality in law and culture, with respect to new reproductive technologies and to sexual and intimate relationships. I would like to advance my research in some of my main projects, through engaging with the faculty and researchers who are members of the Center, and who work closely with the Center at Columbia. I am interested in discussing mutual ideas and areas of interest as well as to introduce other elements of the projects that I work on, particularly how gender and reproductive rights are addressed, and how discrimination is enabled via Israeli Law.

E.B.: What prompted you to pursue the topic of surrogacy in your work?

T.K.P.: The main issue about surrogacy is how it is intimately tied to a person’s body through pregnancy: Following pregnancy [the birth parent] delivers the baby in order to give [them] away. The legal implications of this stoked my imagination and my thoughts: I imagined myself as the birthing mother and as a woman striving for a child; Both situations evoked many questions and dilemmas for me as a woman. In order to answer these questions, I had to start my research by interviewing the people that are involved in all aspects of these relationships and procedures. Following these interviews, I examined these answers through legal lenses. I have been dealing with this subject for almost seven years, and I continue to find it interesting and challenging.

E.B.: How might we conceive of surrogacy as a human rights issue?

T.K.P.: My idea relates to the dignity, honor and respect that we as a society, and the law as our representative, must give to people that serve as surrogates: the respect that they need and deserve. This is one of the most intimate ways that a person can provide a service for another. I hope to use my work to mobilize a pursuit of rights for surrogates and persons involved in surrogacy proceedings all over the world.

E.B.: Looking ahead, what topics and themes would you like to explore in your research?

T.K.P.: I have so many projects in mind that I need to double my time in a day in order to conduct them all: In the ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) field, I just posed for a research grant proposal regarding the freezing eggs. In regards to intersections of religious law and civil society: I have a lot to do – Religion’s influence on societies and on states profoundly impacts the resources that people have access too, even in secular nations. I am also eager to advance research about gender-based and sexuality-based bullying on the internet.

Although the legal systems regarding gender and sexuality have moderately changed all over the western world we still have a lot to do to seek reproductive justice. Oppression still occurs all over. I think that one of the main problems is that law and legal systems frequently speak to enforcing and upholding equality, but equality is not present in society, and/or these laws are not enforced. For example, in Israel, I analyzed “The Law for Equal Rights for Women-1951” and my conclusions showed that it serves to promote a myth of equality, while actually maintaining discrimination. I believe that one of our main goals must be to tear the mask of equality from the face of the laws, and make the legal changes that are necessary and demanded so as to achieve equal rights for women and people of all genders in our systems.

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More information on this Summer’s Cohort of Visiting Scholars at Columbia Law School may be found here.  Tamar Katz Peled may be reached by e-mail at tamarpeled@gmail.com.

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