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Child Protection And Children's Rights


Course requirements

Master degree

Course information

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its two substantive Optional Protocols clearly advocate that every child must be protected against all forms of violence, that is: physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect in different settings (e.g. home, school or institutions) and related to different contexts (e.g. education/upbringing, religion or custom). In addition, international and regional legal instruments prohibit exploitation of children (sexual, economic or other forms of exploitation).

The first part of this course (3 weeks) focuses on violence at home and in care settings, including forms of alternative care (e.g. foster or residential care). With regard to protection against violence at home, the CRC provides a legal frame for child protection, which includes provisions with regard to the role and responsibilities of the parents or guardians towards children as primary caregivers and with regard to child protection mechanisms, including alternative care. This course addresses the rights of children who are in need of protection and care of the State when parents fail, are unwilling or incapable to provide adequate care. It explores the balancing of the right to family life and positive obligations of States when children are in need of care and protection. The CRC general provisions of the best interests of the child (art. 3 CRC) and the right of the child to be heard (art. 12 CRC) will be discussed in relation to protection against abuse and neglect, separation of child and parents or carers and alternative care. The CRC, the UN Guidelines on Children in Alternative Care and regional human rights instruments such as the European Convention on Human Rights and case law, will be used as guidance. In addition, child protection systems will be analysed: what are core elements, how do systems respond when concerns about the child’s upbringing are reported, which court interventions are possible? What are the implications of the rights of children in need of care for the domestic level?

The second part of the course (2 weeks) focusses on the protection of children against forms of exploitation, in particular sexual abuse and exploitation, including attention for trafficking. Again, an international legal comparative approach will pave the way for a closer analysis of the steps that ought to be taken by states to combat sexual violence against children, including in the context of trafficking. This touches upon prevention and reporting mechanisms, criminal justice interventions against perpetrators and redress for victims, including special care arrangements. As part of this course guest lecturers will be invited, such as the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children. At the end of the course an excursion will be organised to ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), which resides at the Children’s Rights home (“Kinderrechtenhuis”) in Leiden.

The above-mentioned topics will be addressed from an international comparative perspective. This means first of all that the implications of the international (UN) human rights standards will be addressed in comparison with regional human rights standards. In addition, students are invited to analyze domestic child protection systems and reflect on the implementation of the relevant CRC-provisions. This course connects with other courses that touch upon issues related to child protection against violence or exploitation, including protection against violence in the justice system (course ‘Children in the justice system’), armed conflict (course ‘Interaction between children’s rights and other international legal systems’), work-related violence or exploitation (idem), violence and exploitation on the internet or other digital sources (course ‘Children’s rights and digital technologies’), migration issues (course ‘Migration and children’s rights) and the work of the UN special representatives and rapporteurs on relevant child protection issues (course ‘Enforcement and monitoring of children’s rights’).

The programme consists of 5 weeks with interactive lectures and seminars. Students have to prepare the compulsory literature and the questions/cases provided on Blackboard but will also be stimulated to prepare other relevant literature on their own initiative.

Students are also expected to prepare a case note with regard to one specific, but also controversial, child protection issue.

Course objectives

This course aims to provide in depth knowledge about the international children’s rights framework with regard to protection of children against violence and exploitation, including the framework with regard to children in need of protection and care at home and in alternative care settings, its relation to regional human rights documents and case law and its significance for the rights of children at the domestic level. A critical reflection on the potential and limitations of children’s rights to protection and care when parents or caregivers are incapable or unwilling to be a ‘good enough’ parent will be part of this course. More specifically:

  • Students will acquire thorough knowledge of children’s right to protection against violence and their right to care as part of international human rights law as enshrined in the CRC, General Comments, the UN Guidelines on Children in Alternative Care and other international and regional children’s rights instruments;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of the different legal tools for implementing and monitoring children’s rights to protection against violence and care at the domestic level;

  • Students will acquire thorough legal knowledge and understanding of State obligations to effectively protect children against violence and neglect at home and in alternative care settings and will learn how to balance the rights of children, parents and the State;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of core elements of child protection systems and will learn how to reflect on the implementation of children’s rights in child protection systems;

  • Students will acquire knowledge and understanding of children’s right to be adequately protected against different forms exploitation, in particular sexual abuse and exploitation and the core elements of child protection mechanisms to prevent or combat sexual exploitation of children and the state’s responsibilities in this regard;

  • Students will be able to critically reflect on international children’s rights with regard to protection against violence and neglect, (alternative) care and protection against sexual exploitation, and have an understanding of relevant ethical issues and dilemmas, challenges and caveats when implementing children’s rights in legal daily practice of child protection;

  • Students are able to analyse and answer complex legal questions concerning children’s right to protection against violence, neglect at home and in alternative care settings and exploitation of children using their knowledge of and insight into the different international children’s rights instruments;

  • Students are able to write a high quality case note (legal opinion) on the theoretical aspects of a complex or controversial, but relevant child protection issues.

Mode of instruction

Seminar: 5 weeks of 2 seminars per week of 2 hours each
Excursion: field trip to ECPAT (Kinderrechtenhuis, Leiden)

Examination method

Written examination: 60%

Written assignment (case note): 40%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

The opportunity exists to re-take the exam and assignment. Further information will be communicated through Blackboard.


The literature is distributed through Blackboard.
Submission of written assignment via Blackboard using safe assignment.

Course materials

A list of all study materials will be published on Blackboard. Unless otherwise indicated, all study materials are available via the online catalogue or as a paper copy in the Leiden law Library. Where possible, all required and recommended reading materials will be made available through Blackboard.


Coordinator of the course:
Dr. Stephanie Rap
Telephone number: 0031-71 527 3625
Email address:

Programme Officer:
Ms. Esther Uiterweerd
Telephone number: 0031-71 527 4644
Email address: