Universiteit Leiden

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Freedom to choose your own life partner

Professor Kees Waaldijk presented the report on the LawsAndFamilies Database to Pearl Dykstra, member of the High Level Group of Scientific Advisors of the European Commission on 25 April. This comparative study shows that in European countries same-sex partners are increasingly gaining equal rights. But the project is far from complete.

Legislation influences lives

The More and More Together research report complements the  LawsAndFamilies Database. Pearl Dykstra, who is also Professor of Empiric Sociology at Erasmus University, commented: 'I am going to use the database directly in my teaching.  The comparative tool shows at a glance what inequality between homo and hetero couples looks like. Sociologists are not sufficiently aware that policy and legislation influence the opportunities that people have in their lives. particularly for homosexual and lesbian couples. I hope that the database will be broadened to include more countries than the 21 that it currently covers.’

Pearl Dykstra and Kees Waaldijk

A partner of our own choice

Derk Brouwer is a member of the Betsy Brouwer Foundation that is named after his elderly aunt. He, too, spoke during the presentation: as well as the EU, the Betsy Brouwer Foundation has also contributed to the research. Moreover, this fund is a sponsor of the Leiden chair in Comparative Sexual Orientation law that Waaldijk holds. 'It is our right to enter into a relationship with one, or more, partners of our own choice, regardless of their sexual orientation,' Brouwer stated. 'At the moment, the focus is on couples of the same or the opposite sex and I think more research is needed on relationships in the middle of the spectrum.' 

Interdisciplinary research

The LawsAndFamilies Datasbase is part of the FamiliesAndSocieties research project and is the result of four years of research and cooperation with INED, the French Institute for Demographics, and with legal specialists, demography experts and sociologists in twenty other countries. At Leiden University, besides Kees Waaldijk another four researchers have worked on the project: Jose Villaverde, Natalie Nikolina, Giuseppe Zago and Daniel Damonzé. Nikolina believes the database is a good source for writing papers. 'The database is useful for not only legal specialists and sociologists,'she says, 'but also for statisticians, policy makers and activists. Each group will make its own use of the database.' 

Did you know that...?

On the African continent, South Africa is an exception in terms of he legal recognition of homosexual and lesbian relations. In 1996 the country adopted a new constitution that established the freedom of sexual orientation and the legal equality of homosexuals and lesbians. Researcher Daniel Damonzé has a background in South Africa. 'Homo marriage was introduced in 2006 as a consequence of the equality provided for in the constitution,' he says. 'I hope that the LawsAndFamilies Database, or an African version of it, can show how advanced developments are in South Africa.' 

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