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Comparative Sexual Orientation Law


Admission requirements

Succesful completion of at least one year of university education (including ideally some course(s) in law, human rights and/or LGBT studies). Active and passive command of English.
The course is primarily aimed at third year law students of many different national backgrounds, but students from other disciplines are equally welcome. The maximum number of students is 25.


This course takes a close look at legal developments concerning sexual orientation. Around the world, various rules of national law deal with homosexual orientation, either to suppress or marginalize it (for example through criminalisation), or to recognize or protect it (for example in family law or in anti-discrimination law). In many countries, and also in many international organisations, the law with respect to sexual orientation has been changing recently, and more changes can be expected. To grasp the developments in this field, this course takes a comparative approach, comparing laws of different countries and minimum standards set by different international institutions.
Since the 1790s a growing number of countries has decriminalised sex between people of the same-sex, a trend that helped international human rights bodies to set strong and clear precedents condemning such criminalisation (still existing in some 75 countries) as a violation of human rights. Since the 1970s a growing number of countries has started to take legal measures against sexual orientation discrimination; in the field of employment the European Union now requires member states to explicitly and effectively prohit such discrimination. Simultaneously a growing number of countries has started to legally recognise same-sex couples and sometimes also their children; slowly such a recognition is now also finding its way into international human rights case law.
Students will be working with original materials, including national and international case law, and with the results of multi-country comparative legal research. They will do their own comparative legal research, and will write papers on four different aspects of sexual orientation law, each paper from a different possible professional perspective.

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
Introduce students to the main legal issues concerning homosexual orientation (criminalisation, anti-discrimination, partnership, parenting) in the law of different countries in the world and in the minimum standards of different international organisations.

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

  • Students will understand how different aspects of sexual orientation (behaviour, preference, relationships, etc.) are being ignored and/or recognized in national and international law, and how national law is both influencing and following international law (including European Union law).

  • Students will be familiar with the most important case law in the field, especially from the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee.

  • Students will have gained some skills in finding materials on foreign law and in doing basic comparative research.

  • Students will be able to think and argue in an informed and relevant manner about issues of sexual orientation law.


In the spring of 2013 the course will be taught in nine sessions (mostly from 16:15 to 18:45 hours), probably on the following dates:
Monday 22 April, Thursday 25 April, Monday 29 April,
Thursday 2 May, Monday 6 May,
Monday 13 May, Thursday 16 May,
Friday 17 May (all day symposium) and Thursday 23 May.
Papers (up to 1500 words each) will be due on 25 April, 6 May, 16 May and 31 May;
Most sessions will be at Leiden University’s Campus The Hague, in the Stichthage building right above the Central Station of The Hague.
The exact timetable of this course will be announced in Blackboard.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (1 hours) lectures: 8

  • Names of lecturers: Kees Waaldijk and guest lecturers

  • Required preparation by students: reading the set materials


  • Number of (1 hours) seminars: 12

  • Names of instructors: Kees Waaldijk

  • Required preparation by students: reading the set materials

Other methods of instruction

  • Description: individual consultation for the papers (up to 1 hour per student)

  • Number of (2 hour) instructions:

  • Names of instructors: Kees Waaldijk

  • Required preparation by students:

Assessment method

Examination form(s)

  • Participation in class (20%)

  • Four papers of up to 1500 words (20% each)
    Two students who would like to write one of the four papers together, can be given permission to do so (with additional requirements); in that case the maximum length is 3000 words.
    Being absent more than once, or more than once failing to read the set materials, will lead to a lower score for “Participation in class”. Handing in a paper after a deadline will lead to a lower score for that paper, or to a zero-score if the other papers have already been graded.

Submission procedures

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.


More information on this course will be offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • parts of: Alli Jernow, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Justice: A Comparative Law Casebook, Geneva: International Commission of Jurists, 2011 (online here).

  • Kees Waaldijk ‘Same-Sex Partnership, International Protection’, in: R. Wolfrum (ed.), Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012 (online here).

  • parts of: Kees Waaldijk & Matteo Bonini-Baraldi, Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the European Union: National Law and the Employment Equality Directive, The Hague: Asser Press, 2006 (online here).

  • parts of: Kees Waaldijk (ed.), More or less together: Levels of legal consequences of marriage, cohabitation and registered partnership for different-sex and same-sex partners. A comparative study of nine European countries, Paris: INED, 2005 (online here).

  • A selection of online articles and papers.

Course information guide:


  • Circa 12 judgments/opinions of the European Court of Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Court of Justice of the EU.

Recommended course materials


Students can register for this course (between 22 March and 15 April 2013) through uSis.
Students enrolled at another Dutch university than Leiden can obtain access to uSis, by first (before 28February 2012) submitting the form Inschrijven als bijvak/gaststudent (unfortunately only available in Dutch).

Students who do not (yet) have access to uSis, or who would like to discuss their registration earlier, can send an email to prof. Kees Waaldijk.

Registration is free for students enrolled at any Dutch university (including exchange students). Others (i.e. those doing the course as a Study Abroad Student, or as Contractonderwijs) will be charged a fee, and should apply well in advance.

Contact information

  • Co-ordinator: prof. Kees Waaldijk

  • Work address: room 12.44, Stichthage building in The Hague (access via escalator in main hall of railway station Den Haag Centraal)

  • Contact information:

  • Telephone number: 070 800 9593

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: Public International Law

  • Room number secretary: B1.21, Kamerlingh Onnes building in Leiden

  • Opening hours: 9:00 – 17:00

  • Telephone number secretary: 071 527 7578

  • Email:


This course is aimed at law students and at students from other disciplines. It is hoped that students from many different countries will take part. The schedule of this course is designed to also accomodate students who live further away from The Hague; to limit their travelling and housing needs, the sessions of the course are concentrated in a five week period, with teaching only taking place in the first, second and last week of that period.
Please note that in the academic year 2013-2014 this course will probably be taught in the first semester.


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.