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European Non-Discrimination Law


Admission requirements

Students need to have successfully followed at least one introductory course in European Union Law. Preferably, they have also followed a basic course on human rights. Students who are not at all familiar with EU Law can apply to do a pre-course oral test, for which they have to read a basic textbook on EU Law. Applications for this test need to be made at least one month in advance of the course.


Since the 18th Century French and American Revolutions, equality is one of the founding principles of modern democratic states. The idea that all citizens are equal before and in the law and that there should be no discrimination against them, takes a central place in modern legal thinking. This does not mean that societies are free from discrimination. After World War II, the norm of equal treatment and/or non-discrimination has been laid down in a great number of international treaties and declarations (e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ICCPR, CEDAW, CERD, CRPD), in regional human rights conventions (like the ECHR) and in the EU treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The norm has also been incorporated in numerous constitutions and civil and criminal laws on the national level.

In this course we will focus on the legislation that the European Union has adopted in order to prevent and to combat discrimination. We will closely examine how the TEU, the TFEU, the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, a great number of directives, and the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU (ECJ) have conceptualised the prohibition of discrimination, in what areas of social and economic life these norms are applicable, and how these norms work in practice. After a general introduction to the place of the principle of equality in EU law, we will study some specific issues, like for example the concepts of direct and indirect discrimination, the concept of reasonable accommodation, and the legality of positive action measures. Four non-discrimination grounds will be studied in detail: sex, sexual orientation, race / ethnic origin and disability. Of course, these norms will be studied in relation to other international instruments that cover the same non-discrimination grounds, most notably the ECHR, CEDAW, CERD and CRPD. Last but not least, we will examine how these non-discrimination norms have been implemented in national legislation in various EU Member States and countries outside the EU (dependent on the national origin of the participants of the course).

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The aim of this course is to familiarize students with the basic principles of non-discrimination law and to give them good knowledge of one particular important body of legislative measures in this field, i.e. that of the European Union, in relation to other existing international norms.

Achievement levels
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:

  • Students will understand the history and human rights background of non-discrimination law.

  • Students will be familiar with the main instruments in this area at the UN-Level and at regional level (UN treaties and regional human rights treaties).

  • Students will have good knowledge of the legal instruments of the European Union in the area of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race / ethnic origin and disability and of the relevant case law of the ECJ.

  • Students will have gained some skills in finding materials concerning existing non-discrimination laws and case law in their country of origin and in doing some basic comparative research.

  • Students will be able to think and argue in an informed and relevant manner about issues of non-discrimination.


The course will be taught during five weeks in the Spring term. The timetable can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. Holtmaat (coordinator), Prof. Hendriks, Prof. Rodrigues, Prof. Tobler, Prof. Waaldijk

  • Required preparation by students: reading EU and international non-discrimination instruments, case law of ECJ and ECrtHR and relevant articles from academic journals


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5

  • Names of instructors: prof. Holtmaat

  • Required preparation by students: reading chapters from text book on European Anti-Discrimination Law and relevant case law of ECJ and EcrHR. Students prepare assignments for each seminar.

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Written exam

  • 1 credit point, to be earned by means of successfully completing 4 out of 5 weekly assignments (i.e. students who get the credit point will have their grade for the written exam increased with one full point, with 10 remaining the maximum).

Submission procedures

Assignments need to be submitted through Blackboard.

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature and case law) for the course, the course information guide and the content of the lectures, seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course will be offered on Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Evelyn Ellis, European Anti-Discrimination Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012 (2nd edition).

  • Materials that are placed on Blackboard.

Course information guide:

  • Will be placed on blackboard.


  • not applicable

Recommended course materials

  • Dagmar Schiek et al., Cases, Materials, Texts on National, Supranational and International Non-Discrimination Law, Oxford: Hart Publishing 2007.

  • Sandra Fredman, Discrimination Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2011 (2nd edition).


Students have to register for this course and its exam through uSis.

Students enrolled at another Dutch university than Leiden can obtain access to uSis, by first submitting the form “Inschrijven als bijvak/gaststudent”: (unfortunately only available in Dutch).

Students not enrolled at any Dutch university (i.e. those doing the course as a “Study Abroad Student”: (info in English), or as “Contractonderwijs”: (info only in Dutch) should apply well in advance.

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Prof. Rikki Holtmaat

  • Work address: KOG, room B.1.28

  • Contact information: Secretariat of the Europa Institute: Ms Wendy Rodger

  • Telephone number: 003171 527 7740 / 8837

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: European Law

  • Room number secretary: B.1.21

  • Opening hours: Mon-Frid 9 AM to 5 PM

  • Telephone number secretary: 003171 527 8837

  • Email: Ms Wendy Rodger


Belangstellenden die deze cursus in het kader van contractonderwijs willen volgen (met tentamen), kunnen meer informatie vinden over kosten, inschrijving, voorwaarden, etc. op de website van Juridisch PAO.