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European Non-Discrimination Law


Admission requirements

Students need to have successfully followed at least an introductory course in European Union Law or in human rights law.


Since the 18th Century French and American Revolutions, equality has been 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. However, unfortunately, 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 large number of international treaties and declarations (e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICCPR, ICESCR, CEDAW, CERD, CRPD), in regional human rights conventions (e.g. the ECHR) and in the EU Treaties and in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The right to equal treatment, and the prohibition of discrimination, have also been incorporated in numerous constitutions and civil and criminal laws on the national level.

In this course we will focus on European Union law on discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, race and ethnic origin, disability, religion or belief and age. We will examine how the foundational texts of the European Union as well as several EU Directives, as interpreted through the case law of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), conceptualise the prohibition of discrimination, in what areas of social and economic life these norms are applicable and how they work in practice. After a general introduction into the basic concepts, we will look into the individual discrimination grounds. The relevant norms will be placed in the context of other international instruments that cover the same non-discrimination grounds. In the class discussion, we will also consider how these norms have been implemented in national legislation in various EU Member States and countries outside the EU (depending on the national origin of the participants of the course).

Course objectives

Objectives of the course
The aim of this course is to familiarise students with the basic principles and legislation of the European Union in the field of non-discrimination law, 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 European Union non-discrimination law.

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

  • Students will be aware of the main anti-discrimination instruments at the UN-Level and at regional level.

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


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 8

  • Names of lecturers: Prof. Christa Tobler, t.b.a. (coordinator) plus a number of guest lecturers (to be determined)

  • Required preparation by students: reading EU and international non-discrimination instruments, case law of CJEU and ECtHR and relevant academic writing.


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 2

  • Names of instructors: t.b.a.

  • Required preparation by students: as indicated on Blackboard.

Other methods of instruction

Assessment method

Examination form(s)
Written exam in the form of a case note (annotation of a judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union).

Submission procedures
To be confirmed in the reader

Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) 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. Students must use these materials when writing their case note.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

Obligatory course materials

  • Lilla Farkas, How to present a Discrimination Claim; Handbook on seeking remedies under the EU Eon-discrimination Directives. Publication of the EU Network of Legal Experts in the Non-discrimination Field; Brussels 2011;

  • EctHR & Council of Europe / EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), Handbook European non-discrimination law, Strasbourg/Vienna 2010;

  • Materials that are placed on Blackboard.

Course information guide
Will be placed on Blackboard

Recommended course materials

  • European Commission, Compilation of Case Law on the equality of treatment between women and men and on non-discrimination in the European Union, 3rd edition, Luxembourg 2010;

  • Evelyn Ellis/Philippa Watson, EU Anti-Discrimination Law, 2nd edition, Oxford 2012;

  • Sandra Fredman, Discrimination Law, 2nd edition, Oxford2011;

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


Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
Exchange students have priority and will be registered for the course first. Any remaining seats will be available for students from Leiden University and other Dutch Universities.

Contact information

  • Coordinator: Ms. J. Mackic LLM

  • Work address: KOG Steenschuur 25, kamer B2.29

  • Telephone number: 003171 527 5868

  • Email:


  • Institute: Public Law

  • Department: European Law

  • Room number secretary: B.1.21

  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9:00 – 17:00

  • Telephone number secretary: Ms. Van der Helm 003171 527 3596

  • Email:



Contractual programma

Anyone interested in registering for this course as part of a Contractual Programme (Contractonderwijs), which includes examination, will find further information regarding costs, application and registration, conditions etc. on the website of Juridisch PAO (Legal postgraduate education).