Gender Perspectives on IHL

Helen Durham, ICRC Director of Law and policy

Helen Durham, ICRC Director of Law and policy

Last week the ICRC's Director of Law and Policy, Helen Durham, participated in a podcast hosted by The Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) at Harvard University. The podcast brings together experts from diverse backgrounds to consider how the practical implementation and enforcement of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) affects men, women, girls and boys differently.

Armed conflict affects men, women, girls and boys in fundamentally different ways, often exacerbating pre-existing gender inequalities in society. In this context, how well does international humanitarian law (IHL) account for these differences in the protection of vulnerable populations in situations of conflict? Critically analyzing IHL from a gender perspective provides greater insight into many of the key humanitarian challenges in armed conflict, ranging from protecting refugees and displaced persons, to preventing sexual and gender-based violence, and limiting the harmful effects of weapons. It also highlights how gendered deficiencies during conflict affect peace, justice and long-term recovery.

In conversations with key experts and practitioners, this podcast will examine the gendered nature of protections under IHL. It will also assess what progress has been made in addressing the gendered nature of international law - including the recognition of rape and sexual violence as international crimes. Finally, it will consider how to address disparities in the law and in its implementation with regard to gender and humanitarian protection.

This podcast addresses the following questions:

  1. Why is a gendered perspective on IHL important? How does it influence the protection of civilians and our understanding of vulnerable groups?
  2. What are the practical implications of highlighting gendered differences in humanitarian programming?
  3. What progress has been made in integrating a gender perspective into international law and humanitarian protection? What shortcomings exist, and what remains to be done?

To hear the podcast, visit the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative's website here.