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"International human rights law, international humanitarian law and international refugee law have sought to provide a comprehensive framework to address the harms experienced by both men and women in war. However, discriminatory interpretation and application of these three strands of international law, as well as the failure to recognize women's singular experience of armed conflict, have meant that this framework has not provided the protection and response that women have required" 
The use of sexual violence on women in times of armed conflicts - both internal and international conflicts is an event which is 'almost' taken for granted. Therefore, this essay aims to address this issue of rape of women in armed conflicts, assess the response of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) to this recurrent problematic
International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) which seek to govern the conduct of combatants during warfare in order to limit the adverse effects of the conflict on children, former participants and civilians. In recent times, there have been calls for the recognition of the different effects armed conflicts have on women and men and in response IHL has tried to come up with additional protocols in order to address this fault of the IHL rules. This essay will therefore be examining these Laws with particular focus on the protection it offers to female civilians who are caught in the exchange of fire between two combating parties. This will be done in order to determine of these rules are sensitive to the differences between the two sexes in light of the different effects of the war on them. It also intends to question if there are specific provisions that addresses these differences adequately in order to make proposals for its improvement.
"On September 30, 2009, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that addresses the need to end sexual violence against women in conflict-affected countries. Introduced by the US government, at a session chaired by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the resolution builds on Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820, both of which were instrumental in raising the issue of sexual violence on the Security Council's agenda." 
Inclusion of rape as a crime under the crimes of humanity, but only if committed "â€¦as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack" 
"International law is
contained in agreements between
States - treaties or conventions -, in
customary rules, which consist of
State practise considered by them
as legally binding, and in general principles" 
Can more be done to protect women in times of war and should more be done? (this part of the essay will questioning if the focus should be on making 'war crimes' more gender sensitive or if the focus should be on eliminating war crimes)
This essay will be addressing the 'gender neutral' aspect of laws of war, focusing on the commission of sexual crimes by both sides
What is sexual violence?
Do the Laws of war provide adequate protection and reparation for female civilians in times of war and should they?
Are the laws if war adequately gender sensitive and do they need to be?
Women and International Humanitarian Law
Gender as a factor has been ignored within the law making machinery of humanitarian laws. Women as combatants and women as carers of old pple/children
"'Gender aspects' were often synonymous with
women's aspects. Men were seldom included except as analysed within their
traditional roles. For example, there was little focus on men as the carers of
children and old people. Likewise, women were generally presented as victims
rather than combatants or perpetrators. The gender issue was merely dealt
with in the context of the perceived traditional roles of men and women." 
"However such scholars have argued that as societies
do not treat men and women alike, situations of armed conflicts will inevitably
impact upon men and women in an unequal manner. Armed conflicts
have the capacity to reinforce existing inequalities in society. On the other
hand, such situations can also provide new social possibilities for women - at
least during the armed conflict itself." 
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) includes rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilization, or "any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity" as a crime against humanity when it is committed in a widespread or systematic way 
In 2000, recognising the need to do more than punish rape in war, the Security Council went further. On 31 October 2000, the Council passed Resolution 1325, the first resolution ever passed by the Security Council that specifically addressed the impact of war on women, and women's contributions to conflict resolution and sustainable peace. 
o complement the full implementation of resolution 1325, the Security Council voted unanimously for resolution 1820 in June 2009, which recognizes sexual violence as a tactic of war and a matter of international peace and security. It affirms sexual violence in conflict as a war crime, crime against humanity and constituent act of genocide that is prohibited. Stronger and clearer guidelines shall be given to United Nations peacekeepers to prevent sexual violence. Further, the resolution asserts the importance of women's participation in all processes related to stopping sexual violence in conflict, including their participation in peace talks. 
Even in places where all the right mechanisms are in place, negative cultural attitudes towards women can make police stations and courts a hostile environment for survivors of sexual violence.
To address this, UN agencies and NGOs are advocating more resources for the training of police and military officers to better handle cases of sexual violence. 
Changing negative cultural attitudes
Although training authorities and changing national laws are major steps towards punishing and ending these crimes, they cannot be successful without a fundamental change in people's attitudes towards the sexual abuse of women.
Sexual violence, whether in peace or in war has to become, for all people, a repugnant crime, which society refuses to accept and punishes severely. At present, says Dr Mukwege, director of Panzi hospital in Bukavu, Eastern DRC, this is not the case.
"Right now, the woman who gets raped is the one who is stigmatised and excluded for it. Beyond laws we have to get social sanction on the side of the woman. We need to get to a point where the victim receives the support of the community and the man who rapes is the one who is stigmatised and excluded and penalised by the whole community. It's the only way we can stop these crimes. Social sanction would be more effective in putting an end to these crimes than just the legal process."
This is where media, civil society and activist groups can play an important role. Through town hall meetings, radio and television talk shows, education campaigns and other means, these groups can advocate for removing the stigma on those who have been sexually assaulted, infected with HIV/AIDS, or who have conceived children as a result of such attacks, and generate societal condemnation against perpetrators. Moreover they can also lobby for the adoption and enforcement of more effective laws against such crimes. 
Where is international
humanitarian law to be found?
A major part of international
humanitarian law is contained in the
four Geneva Conventions of 1949.
Nearly every State in the world has
agreed to be bound by them. The
Conventions have been developed
and supplemented by two further
agreements: the Additional
Protocols of 1977 relating to the
protection of victims of armed
When does international
humanitarian law apply?
International humanitarian law
applies only to armed conflict; it
does not cover internal tensions or
disturbances such as isolated acts
of violence. The law applies only
once a conflict has begun, and then
equally to all sides regardless of
who started the fighting.
weapons and tactics?
International humanitarian law
prohibits all means and methods of
ï€¡ï€ fail to discriminate between
those taking part in the fighting
and those, such as civilians,
who are not, the purpose being
to protect the civilian
population, individual civilians
and civilian property;
ï€¡ï€ cause superfluous injury or
ï€¡ï€ cause severe or long-term
damage to the environment.
What should be done to
implement the law?
Measures must be taken to ensure
respect for international
humanitarian law. States have an
obligation to teach its rules to their
armed forces and the general public.
They must prevent violations or
punish them if these nevertheless
In particular, they must enact laws to
punish the most serious violations of
the Geneva Conventions and
Additional Protocols, which are
regarded as war crimes. The States
must also pass laws protecting the
red cross and red crescent
Measures have also been taken at
an international level: tribunals have
been created to punish acts
committed in two recent conflicts
(the former Yugoslavia and
Rwanda). An international criminal
court, with the responsibility of
repressing inter alia war crimes, was
created by the 1998 Rome Statute.
Whether as individuals or through
governments and various
organizations, we can all make an
important contribution to compliance
with international humanitarian law.
"In eastern Congo, rape and sexual violence are routinely employed as weapons to subjugate villages and terrorise entire communities. From old women to young children, the soldiers do not discriminate; the stories of their brutality and torture are so horrific that they rarely reach western ears. Inside the country, however, the locals have accepted mass rape as the status quo; even women who have been attacked will tell you: "This is just Congolese life."