Women and the Law of Armed Conflict: Why the Silence?


Gardam, Judith. 1997. “Women and the Law of Armed Conflict: Why the Silence?” The International and Comparative Law Quarterly 46 (1): 55–80.

Author: Judith Gardam


The aim of this article is to extend the critique of human rights law by feminist scholars to humanitarian law—or the law of armed conflict, as it is more traditionally known. When reflecting generally on the role that international law plays in providing protection for women from the effects of violence the obvious starting point is the regime of human rights. So much of human suffering in today's world occurs, however, in the context of armed conflict where to a large extent human rights are in abeyance and individuals must rely on the protections offered by the law of armed conflict. The debate that has been taking place for some years in the context of human rights as to the extent to which that system takes account of women's lives needs to extend to the provisions of the law of armed conflict. Although commentators have convincingly demonstrated the limitations of the existing body of human rights law adequately to take account of the reality of women's experience of the world, the law of armed conflict is even more deficient. Moreover, despite the recent focus on rape in armed conflict as a result of the international outrage at the sexual abuse of women in the armed conflict in the former Yugoslavia, these shortcomings remain largely unaddressed. At first glance this seems somewhat surprising until the special difficulties that flow from certain characteristics of the law of armed conflict are appreciated.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, International Law, International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Sexual Violence Regions: Europe, Balkans Countries: Yugoslavia (former)

Year: 1997

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