Protection of Women in Armed Conflict

Hilary Charlesworth, Judith Gardam

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Women increasingly bear the major burden of armed conflict. In recent years particular attention has been given to the question of violence against women in armed conflict. The significance of these developments is considerable. However, the focus on violence-in particular on sexual violence-tends to obscure other important aspects of women's experience of armed conflict that to date have been largely ignored. The purpose of this comment is to consider a range of ways in which women are affected by armed conflict and to assess the adequacy of international law in protecting them. International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is an ancient, conservative, and relatively inflexible area of international law. The number of challenges posed to its relevance and effectiveness in the last half century has been bewildering. It now must meet the demands of women to truly reflect their life experiences. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) a deeply conservative organization, has special responsibility for the development of IHL and is in danger of losing the initiative in many areas where it should be at the forefront of developments. The ICRC is finally recognizing the need to address the specific needs of women in armed conflict. However, a serious commitment to real change is needed. As the traditional guardian of IHL, the ICRC must take concrete steps to make the law relevant to the lives of the majority of the world's population.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)148-166
    JournalHuman Rights Quarterly
    Publication statusPublished - 2000


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