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International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: Working with women affected by war

25-11-2004 News Release 04/63

Geneva (ICRC) – To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25 November, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is launching the French version of its manual Addressing the Needs of Women Affected by Armed Conflict: An ICRC Guidance Document (the English version was launched on 8 March 2004).

This special day is an opportunity to promote global awareness of violence against women. The ICRC is particularly concerned about sexual violence in wartime, a widespread problem that is not limited to rape. Other forms prevalent in war include enforced prostitution, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and trafficking, forced pregnancy, forced termination of pregnancy, enforced sterilization, inappropriate medical examinations and strip searches.

Sexual violence in wartime is not inevitable – it can be prevented if international humanitarian law is respected. The challenge lies in translating existing law into practice. There are a number of steps that can and must be taken to maximize the protection afforded to women in armed conflict and to improve the response given to women's needs, with particular regard to sexual violence. The manual offers clear and practical suggestions on how this can be achieved. Recommendations include training female personnel to better assist victims, ensuring that security measures are taken to limit the risks faced by displaced women and raising awareness among arms bearers of the fact that sexual violence is prohibited at all times under international humanitarian law.

The manual covers a number of topics in addition to sexual violence, reflecting the fact that women's experience of armed conflict is multifaceted. Its aim is to provide a practical tool for ensuring that humanitarian programmes and services adequately address women’s needs. The ICRC hopes that the manual will prove useful to policy-makers and humanitarian personnel endeavouring to work for and with women affected by armed conflict.

 For further information, please contact:  

 Florence Tercier Holst-Roness, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 22 730 3451  

 Annick Bouvier, ICRC Geneva, tel.: ++41 22 730 2458