nl en

Women, Human Rights, and World Religions


Admission requirements



Today’s societies are highly multicultural and multi-religious. They pose interesting questions about the relationship between human rights, religion and the role of women.

For example, do religious women have the right to wear a headscarf in public spaces? Can one be religious and emancipated at the same time? Are there examples of woman-friendly interpretations of holy scripture? What principles does religion offer on marriage and on the question regarding who may marry whom? How does the universal human rights principle of equality square with religious traditions that suggest that men and women are equal in dignity but different? In general, in case of conflict between religion and human rights how can the two be harmonized with one another?

Questions such as these are posed in academia, the media and society at large all around the world and are arguably among the most important and pressing questions of our age.

This course addresses these issues through the exploration of the relationship between world religions, human rights and women. In this course, the emphasis lies on women’s rights, women’s emancipation and on the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The principle objective of this course is to analyse whether and how women of faith exercise their human rights and how religious duties are harmonized with personal freedoms and human rights. In other words, how is divine law (e.g. Quranic tradition, the Old and New Testaments) harmonized with human rights law in the lives of women? How does this influence the underlying gender discourse? How does this shape language on human rights?

Course Objectives

  • Understand the connection and interplay between human rights, religion and women’s positions and identity

  • Explain with sound understanding how human rights are experienced by women of religion.

  • Identify human rights principles in religious (legal) texts

  • Work confidently with case law of the ECHR relating to religious freedom

  • Identify important feminists in various religions, and their role in shaping the discourse on women and emancipation

  • Learn general speaking, writing and close reading skills that efficiently contribute to an interdisciplinary learning environment


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course is interactive, interdisciplinary and consists of seminar style teaching, with a few classes in class. Students will engage in interactive classroom discussions, guided by the instructor. Students will also engage in close reading of texts during class and will be expected to discuss readings prepared beforehand. Through oral presentations and written contributions, the connections between the legal, religious and cultural aspects of the topic of the course will be demonstrated. Teaching materials will include primary sources, such as international treaty texts, ECHR case law, religious law and script, and secondary literature, fiction and film.

Assessment Method

In class participation and discussions of readings, 15%
Two Papers, 30% (15 % each)
Presentation of case, 15%
Final Presentation, 15%
Final essay, 25%

Reading list

  • International Human Rights Treaties, to be found online.

  • Case law of the European Court of Human Rights (HUDOC database, e.g. Sahin vs Turkey)

  • The Quran (selection) - available online

  • The Bible (selection) – available online

  • P.J. Gagoomal, ‘A "Margin of Appreciation" for "Marriages of Appreciation": Reconciling South Asian Adult Arranged Marriages with the Matrimonial Consent Requirement in International Human Rights Law,’ in The Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 97:58.

Further reading TBA


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Naema Tahir