• Leopold Adejoby Benito-Idjidina posted an update 5 years, 1 month ago


    1. What is the role of international humanitarian law in stopping violence against women in armed conflict?

    It is a pure reality that women all over the world are confronted with violence during armed conflicts. In both non-international and international armed conflicts, international humanitarian law (IHL) offers protection to persons who do not, or no longer, take part in the hostilities. Among these persons are also women. So, women who do not take part in hostilities can be termed non-combatants or civilians. Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions lists a number of acts that are prohibited at all times against such persons, and Additional Protocol II lays down fundamental guarantees in Article 4 and 5 for their humane treatment and protection, whether their liberty has been restricted or not. In situations of international armed conflict, the protection of civilians is addressed by the fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which contains a number of specific provisions for the protection of women in such situations. Additional Protocol I of 1977 reiterates the requirement for separate accommodation for men and women whose liberty has been restricted; and further requires female supervision of women whose liberty has been restricted for reasons related to the armed conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for example, conducted a study in which it describes the effects of armed conflict on women – which are different from the way men experience armed conflict – and also published guidelines based on the results of the study on how to practically protect women and girls in armed conflict.
    Sexual and other forms of assault directed specifically against women civilians during armed conflict may be part of a deliberate strategy to repress or punish the civilian population or it may be the result of a failure of command officials to discipline their troops. IHL specifically forbids any attack upon the honour of women, including “rape, enforced prostitution or any form of indecent assault” as mentioned in common article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions, article 75 (2) of the First Additional Protocol and article 4(2) in the Second Additional Protocol. In general, IHL requires humane treatment for the wounded and sick, prisoners and civilians caught up in a conflict, without any “adverse distinction” based on sex, race, nationality, religion, political opinions, or any similar criteria. This general protection is provided by the four Geneva Convention (1949) and their Additional Protocols (1977), as well by customary humanitarian law. The goal of IHL is to humanize war in an effort to minimize human suffering and the long-term negative consequences of war on women particularly and on all civilian population generally. The ICRC has elaborated a protective framework which can help to stop violence against women during armed conflict if that framework is worldwide popularized with States, IGOs and other humanitarian actors. This ICRC protective framework contributes to provide protection and assistance for war victims and their families : it is the Remedy Pillar; In addition the framework requires the reinforcement of national legal frameworks by including rape and sexual violence as well as International Criminal Law rules and IHL rules related to women confronted to armed conflicts : it is the Normative Pillar. ICRC also proposed the legal strengthening of national judicial institutions and of investigative bodies (adequate forensic capacity) so that they can prosecute authors of rape and of sexual violence.
    2. The recent global crisis and conflicts in countries like Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia, Libya, Iraq, Central African Republic etc. have shown that more needs to be done in the area strengthening and monitoring international human rights and humanitarian laws relating to the protection of women’s rights in armed conflict. Based on the above premise, do we need new international humanitarian law to protect women in armed conflict? Discuss.

    Women all over the world are during armed conflicts always confronted to massive violations of their human rights and of IHL norms. Women are treated as spoils of war for the victorious armies, and rape constitutes a cruel, collateral and a frequent crime during war. It is a core human rights law principle that equality is the very foundation of every democratic society which is committed to justice and human rights. Essentially in all societies and all spheres of activity, women are subject to inequalities in law and in fact as well as to discrimination and harassment in the family, in the community and in the workplace. Despite the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), the survival of stereotyped concepts (of men as well as women) and of traditional cultures and beliefs detrimental to women still persist. This discrimination already existing in peace time impact much on women during armed conflict despite the IHL Conventions and Additional Protocols and customary IHL. The problem in countries like Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Cambodia, Libya, Iraq, Central African Republic is that many people are not well-informed or don’t even know what stand for human rights and IHL. At this level, States, ICRC, IGOs, and NGOs must invest much resource to popularize human rights as well as IHL so that it touches all social strata. In addition, since States during armed conflict have some parts of their territory occupied by armed groups, their capacity to bring these armed groups to comply with human rights & IHL norms are weak. However, ICRC detains the role to vulgarize IHL.
    It is important to note that, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has contributed a lot to in the area strengthening and monitoring international human rights and humanitarian laws relating to the protection of women’s rights in armed conflict. Indeed, in October 2000, the UNSC initiated its resolution 1325 (2000) on “Women, Peace and Security” upon all parties to armed conflict “to respect fully international law applicable to the rights and protection of women and girls” and invited the Secretary General to carry out a study on the issue. The subject has continued to be discussed inside the UN System as well as outside. Additional UNSC compulsory Resolutions 1820 (2008); 1888 (2009); 1889 (2009); 1960 (2010); 2106 (2013); 2122 (2013); 2242 (2015) contributed to strengthen IHRL and IHL in favor of women’s cause in armed conflict and the monitoring of women’s rights during armed conflicts. These resolutions underlined the duty for the States and the international community as a whole, to promote gender equality and strengthen women’s participation, protection and rights across the conflict cycle, from conflict prevention through post-conflict reconstruction.
    To conclude, more needs to be done in the area strengthening (reinforcement of the IHL legal tools, particularly where there exist protection gaps to respond appropriately to women’s rights; reinforcement of efforts to popularize women’s rights in armed conflict during peace time) and monitoring (necessity to refer to systematic monitoring of women’s rights violations during armed conflicts) international human rights and humanitarian laws relating to the protection of women’s rights in armed conflict.

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