nl en

Women, Human Rights and World Religions




Admissions 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? May one marry freely by choice or does religion pose restrictions to that freedom, and do these restrictions effect women more than men? How does the universal human rights principle of equality square with religious traditions which suggest that men and women are different but not equal? In general, in case of conflict between religion and human rights, how can the former be harmonized with the latter?

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, with a stronger focus on the latter religion.

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 and how does this influence the underlying gender discourse?

Course objectives

  • Understand the connection and interplay between human rights, religion and gender

  • 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 gender and emancipation

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


Once available, timetables will be published in the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course is interactive, interdisciplinary and consists of seminar style teaching. 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.


In class participation and discussions of readings, 10%
Three Papers, 45% (15 % each)
Presentation of case, 10%
Final essay, 25%
Final Presentation, 10%

Please note:

  • In accordance with article 4.8 of the Course and Examination Regulations (OER), within 30 days after the publication of grades, the instructor will provide students the opportunity to inspect their exams/coursework.

  • There is a no re-sit policy at Leiden University College.


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

  • International Human Rights Treaties, to be found online.

  • Case Law of the European Court of Human Rights (HUDOC database)

  • 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


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact