International Humanitarian Law and Protection of Women
(Dr. Rakesh Kumar Singh
As members of the civilian population, women and girls are subjected to innumerable acts of violence during situations of armed conflict. They often suffer the direct or indirect effects of the fighting, enduring indiscriminate bombing and attacks as well as lack of food and other essentials needed for a healthy survival. The conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina brought world recognition for the issue of the rape of women as a means of warfare. The world was horrified to hear accounts of women held in order to rape and to impregnate them. Rape, forced prostitution, sexual slavery and forced impregnation are violation of international humanitarian law and are now an undisputed part of the vocabulary of war. Women invariably have to bear greater responsibility for their children and their elderly relatives and often the wider community, when the men in the family have left to fight, are interned or detained, missing or dead, internally displaced or in exile. Ironically, many women often do not flee the fighting or the threat of hostilities because they and their families believe that the very fact that they are women will afford them a greater measure of protection from the warring parties. They believe their gender-their socially constructed role will protect them. Therefore, women often stay to protect the family’s property and livelihood, to care for the elderly, young and sick family members who cannot flee as they are less mobile, to keep their children in school, to visit and support family members in detention, to search for their missing family members, and even to assess the level of insecurity and danger in order to decide whether it is safe for the displaced family members to return. In fact, this perceived protection - that as a woman you will be safe- is often not the reality. On the contrary, women have been targeted precisely because they are women.
Since the number of...