South African scholar wins inaugural prize for African research on the rules of war

04 February 2020

Pretoria (ICRC) – South African scholar Dr. Orly Maya Stern was awarded the first-ever International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Africa Prize for best published work by African international scholars and practitioners in 2019 for her book on the increasingly active role women play in war.

“The study of IHL has always been male focused—a body of law written by men, for men, about men,” said Dr. Stern. “However, my work in the field showed me that there are in fact many women involved in the waging of war. Women participate in war, but often in different ways to men. IHL overlooks these women, creating the impression that men are always the fighters and women are always the civilians. In my book I wanted to interrogate this. I wanted to describe the women involved in war in Africa, and to show what happens when you apply the male-focused law to these women.”

The prize, launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), seeks to recognize and encourage African international law scholars and practitioners to research and publish more on emerging issues and challenges that the rules of war face on the African continent. 

“Dr. Stern’s book presents a constructive humanitarian message, outlining how a gendered perspective can strengthen compliance with IHL, and ultimately improve the protection of women during armed conflict,” said Tamalin Bolus, legal advisor at the ICRC who was on the panel of judges that awarded Dr. Stern with the prize.

Her publication titled, “Gender, Conflict and International Humanitarian Law: A Critique of the ‘Principle of Distinction’” was one of 17 submissions received by the ICRC. The submissions ranged from articles to books and reference texts submitted in English, French and Arabic. Dr. Junior Mumbala Abelungu and Dr. Ezéchiel Amani Cirimwami, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, were runners-up for the 2019 prize for their article titled “Le système africain de protection des droits de l’homme et le droit international humanitaire” (“The African system for the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law”).

Following the success of the 2019 IHL Africa prize, the ICRC will offer the 2020 prize for works published between 1 September 2019 and 31 August 2020.

Submissions must be:

  • A published article in a peer review journal.

  • A book chapter or a book by a scholar from Africa, and in the field of IHL.

This includes works accepted for publication and in final proof prior to August 2020.

Submissions must be received via email to by 1 September 2020.

Dr. Stern’s book is published by Routledge and is available at:


For further information, please contact:

Khatija Nxedlana, or +27 78 737 2209

Tendayi Sengwe, or +27 66 476 4446