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ICRC publishes study on women in wartime

17-10-2001 News Release 01/44

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is today publishing Women Facing War , a study on the impact of armed conflict on women. Undertaken three years ago, the study aims to heighten awareness of the plight of women in conflict situations and of the protection to which they are entitled. Women Facing War identifies the needs of women in wartime, analyses the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law, and outlines the ICRC's work for and with women affected by armed conflict.

Women experience war in a multitude of ways. While in some cases they may be combatants, they usually live through the events as civilians. The focus of the study is on issues such as personal safety, sexual violence, displacement, access to health care, food and shelter, detention, and less talked-of matters such as the problem of missing relatives and how it affects survivors, mainly women. Another aspect highlighted is the way armed conflict forces women into unfamiliar roles and demands stronger coping skills.

International humanitarian law and human rights law are clear about the protection women have a right to expect. All over the world the ICRC brings aid to women affected by conflict or internal disturbances and strives to ensure compliance with the rules intended to protect them. It is now committed to amplifying its activities on behalf of women. In a statement made today, ICRC Vice-President Jacques Forster observed: " ...The study we are publishing is the first product of that commitment, but it is only the beginning. [... ] The ICRC wants to see far greater awareness of the problems women face in conflict and to make sure that the protection afforded by law becomes a reality. [... ] The terrible abuse this study reveals is not inevitable. It can and must be prevented. "

At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999 the ICRC pledged to ensure that the needs in terms of protection, health care and assistance of women and girls in wartime are properly assessed in its operations, so as to focus on the most vulnerable. The publication of Women Facing War contributes to fulfilment of that pledge.

The printed version may be obtained from the ICRC Communication Division.