International humanitarian law grants women general protection as civilian persons, and required that women members of the armed forces shall in all cases benefit from treatment as favourable as that granted to men. Besides this basic protection international humanitarian law grants women special protection including:

  1. protection against outrages upon personal dignity and in particular against rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault;
  2. the protection given to expectant mothers, maternity cases and mothers of infants;
  3. the rule that women deprived of liberty, i.e. civilian internees or prisoners of war, must be confined in separate quarters from male internees and must be under the immediate supervision of women.

See Rape



special protection of

    GCI, 12 (see ICRC updated Commentary

    GCII, 12 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIII, 14, 25, 88, 97 and 108

    GCIV, 14, 16, 21-27, 38, 50, 76, 85, 89, 91, 97, 124, 127 and 132

    PI, 70, 75-76

    PII, 5/2 and 6/4

    CIHL, 134

expectant mothers

    GCIV, 14/1, 16, 23/1, 38/5, 50/5, 89/5, 132/2

    PI, 70/1; 76

    PII, 6/4

maternity cases

    GCIV, 21-23, 89/5, 91/2 and 127/3

    PI, 8, 70


    GCIII, 14, 25/4, 88, 97 and 108

    PI, 75/5


    GCIV, 76/4, 85/4, 97/4, 124/3

    PI, 75/5

    PII, 5/2


ICRC Report on Yemen, 1967

Germany, Government Reply on Rapes in Bosnia

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Kunarac, Kovac and Vukovic [Paras 127-186]

Afghanistan, Separate Hospital Treatment for Men and Women

Sudan, Report of the UN Commission of Enquiry on Darfur [Paras 333-358]

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Conflict in the Kivus [Part III, paras 16, 35-37]

Georgia/Russia, Human Rights Watch’s Report on the Conflict in South Ossetia [Paras 87-89]

South Sudan: Medical Care Under Fire

Democratic Republic of Congo, Involvement of MONUSCO

Mali, Conduct of Hostilities

Democratic Republic of Congo, Fighting with the M 23 Group

Central African Republic, Coup d’Etat

Women and Sexual violence

Somalia: Deeply Flawed Rape Inquiry

European Court of Human Rights, Kononov v. Latvia

Colombia – Sexual violence

UN, Report of the Secretary-General on Women and Peace and Security

Somalia, Traditional Law and IHL

Libya, Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014/15)

Central African Republic: Sexual Violence by Peacekeeping Forces

Central African Republic, Report of the UN Independent Expert, July 2016

Italy, Use of force against ambulances in Iraq

ICC, Confirmation of Charges against LRA Leader

International Criminal Court, Trial Judgment in the Case of the Prosecutor V. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo

Central African Republic/Democratic Republic of Congo/Uganda, LRA attacks

Central African Republic, Coup d'Etat

32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Sexual and gender-based violence: joint action on prevention and response

Geneva Call and the Chin National Front

Afghanistan and Colombia, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and Violence Against LGBT+ and Gender-Diverse Persons


Suggested readings:   CARPENTER Charli R., Innocent Women and Children: Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians, Hampshire (England), Burlington (USA), Ashgate, 2006, 217 pp.   KRILL Françoise, “The Protection of Women in International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, No. 249, November 1985, pp. 337-363.   LINDSEY Charlotte, “Women and War”, in IRRC, No. 839, September 2000, pp. 561-580.   NUMMINEN Jutta, “Violence à l’égard des femmes en situation de conflit armé : analyse effectuée selon le point de vue féminin sur la protection de la femme dans le droit international humanitaire”, in The Finnish Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 9, 1998, pp. 453-473   Further readings:   BARROW Amy, “UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820: Constructing Gender in Armed Conflict and International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, Vol. 92, No. 877, March 2010, pp. 221-234.   BENNOUNE Karima, “Do We Need International Law to Protect Women in Armed Conflict?”, in Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, No. 38, 2006, pp. 363-391.   CHINKIN Christine, “Rape and Sexual Abuse of Women in International Law”, in EJIL, Vol. 5/3, 1994, pp. 326-341.   COPELON Rhonda, “Gender Crimes as War Crimes: Integrating Crimes Against Women into International Criminal Law”, in McGill Law Journal, Vol. 46/1, 2000, pp. 217-240.   DURHAM Helen & O’BYRNE Katie, “The Dialogue of Difference: Gender Perspectives on International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, Vol. 92, No. 877, March 2010, pp. 31-52.   DYANI Ntombizozuko, “Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa: Protection of Women from Sexual Violence during Armed Conflict”, in African Human Rights Law Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2006, pp. 166-187.   ISLAM Rafiqul, “The Culpability of Gender-Based Terrorism in International Humanitarian Law: the Rape of Women in Armed Conflicts”, in ISILYearbook of International Humanitarian and Refugee Law, Vol. 6, 2006, pp. 87-105.   NIARCHOS Catherine N., “Women, War, and Rape: Challenges Facing the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia”, in Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 17/4, 1995, pp. 649-690.   RICHEY Katie C., “Several Steps Sideways: International Legal Developments Concerning War Rape and the Human Rights of Women”, in TexasJournal of Women and the Law, Vol. 17, No. 1, 2007, pp. 109-129.     Feminist approach   Suggested readings:   CHARLESWORTH Hilary, “‘Feminist Methods in International Law’, Symposium on Method in International Law”, in AJIL, Vol. 93, 1999, pp. 379-394.   CHINKIN Christine, “A Gendered Perspective to the International Use of Force”, in AYIL, 1988-1989, pp. 279-293.   GARDAM Judith, “A feminist analysis of certain aspects of International Humanitarian Law”, in AYIL, 1988-1989, pp. 265-278   GARDAM Judith, “Women, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, No. 324, September 1998, pp. 421-432.   GARDAM Judith, “Women and the Law of Armed Conflict: Why the Silence?”, in ICLQ, Vol. 46, 1997, pp. 55-80.   GARDAM Judith & CHARLESWORTH Hilary, “Protection of Women in Armed Conflict”, in Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 22/1, February 2000, pp. 148-166. Further readings:   DURHAM Helen, “Women, Armed Conflict, and International Law”, in IRRC, No. 847, September 2002, pp. 655-659.   GARDAM Judith & JARVIS Michelle J., Women, Armed Conflict and International Law, The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 2001, 283 pp.