Meet our Fellows: Nishat Hyder-Rahman

May 10, 2024

Title of the project: Birth_Story: BIRTH registration that tells the full STORY: developing an improved framework for birth registration in the era of assisted reproduction.

Description of the project:

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) have given rise to new family structures and chronologies.  Today, a family can be formed with claims to parenthood, whether based on genetic, gestational, or intentional ties, arising from four or more, as opposed to two, separate parties (so-called multi-parent families).  Conversely, families can be formed with no living biological parents, based on non-parental kinships, e.g., grandparenthood (what I term ‘zero-parent’ families).  However, the law on parenthood does not always recognize the social reality of these novel families.  Across most Western jurisdictions the law on parentage, particularly who can be registered as a parent, continues to reflect a traditional, heteronormative, two-parent, nuclear family structure.  ART challenges what the law views as a ‘family’, and more specifically as a ‘parent’ – and who can fulfil this role.  What makes a family?  This is important because recognising someone as a parent is to recognise a family unit, and, being recognised as a family in law has wide-reaching consequences across many aspects of social and political life. For, law distinguishes families in many contexts, from taxation, social security, and property law to human rights and criminal law. This project explores a practical solution to the challenge posed by ART through designing a framework and tool for birth registration capable of fully reflecting contemporary family formation and family life.


Nishat Hyder-Rahman read Law at the London School of Economics, where she gained both her LL.B (Hons.) and LL.M (Legal Theory) degrees.   She undertook the Bar Vocational Course and was Called to the Bar of England & Wales (Middle Temple), before going on to pursue doctoral research at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Social Ethics and Policy.  Her Ph.D, part of the Bioethics and Medical Jurisprudence Programme, explored on the international regulation of emerging biotechnologies.   She has subsequently undertaken post-doctoral appointments at Utrecht University and Vrije University Brussel (VUB), as well as a teaching appointment at Tilburg University. Nishat’s post-doctoral work has largely focused on the law, ethics and regulation of, and relating to, assisted reproductive technologies (ART).  In addition to her core expertise in medical law and bioethics, Nishat is involved in research and teaching elements of family law, particularly, AI and algorithms in asset division and private international family law.  Nishat is currently a full-time post-doctoral researcher at VUB, part of the MSCA CoFund Impact Fellowship Programme.  Her Impact Project continues exploring the intersection between law, ethics and technology in society – a theme that has defined her career to date – through investigating the legal framework and practical options for digital birth registration in light of advances in assisted reproduction..

Nationality: British & Australian

VUB department and supervisor:

Recht en Criminologie (RC), Vakgroep privaat- en economisch recht (PREC) Supervisors: Prof. Elisabeth Alofs & Prof. Tim Opgenhaffen

Starting date: 1 May 2024