The impact of armed conflict on women

The impact of armed conflict on women

Investigating the needs of women in war

Reports on a study aimed at improving its understanding of the specific impact that armed conflict has on women. This study, the final report of which is nearing completion, investigates the needs of women in war, the protection accorded to women by international humanitarian law, and ICRC activities on behalf of women in their worldwide operations. The report looks issues such as displacement, security, sexual violence, access to medical care and food, detention and 'disappearances'. The aim is to better understand the ways in which women are affected by armed conflict and improve the quality, relevance and impact of its services. The study is also intended to motivate all others involved in conflict situations, directly or indirectly, to seek ways of preventing and, when necessary, alleviating the suffering of women in war.


  • the fact that violations of international humanitarian law do occur does not mean that this body of law is inadequate
  • one of the main reasons that the civilian population fails now more than ever to receive the assistance and protection that international humanitarian law affords them is that humanitarian organisations like the ICRC are not given access to areas where the worst fighting is taking place, and the civilian sick and wounded are denied relief offered on their behalf
  • rapid and unimpeded access must be granted to humanitarian organisations so that they can provide assistance and protection to persons affected by armed conflict. Humanitarian relief activities are carried out without any adverse distinction, in accordance with international law
  • the plight of civilian women in war is often linked to the fate of the menfolk in their household and community. In other words, such misfortunes as attacks on undefended households and women, rape as a means of attacking the "enemy" population, the displacement of women and their dependants, etc., occur in part at least because of the absence of the men
  • to say this is not to deny that women face terrible hardships in armed conflict or that they have their own specific needs and vulnerabilities. On the contrary, it is to recognise that the fate of civilian women can be improved if humanitarian law is fully implemented and respected with regard to combatants and non-combatants, be they male or female

[From the author]

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