War and armed conflict around the world disrupt and damage social systems, essential services and economies and, as a result, have proven to have enormous humanitarian implications. War and armed conflict can affect victims in different ways, but women and girls often face unimaginable risks, threats and challenges under such conditions. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), these risks and challenges include impoverishment, physical and / or sexual violence, loss of loved ones, deprivation of livelihoods, increased responsibility of family members. family, displacement and sometimes death.
As a result, women are often forced to take on new and unfamiliar roles, forcing them to strengthen existing skills and develop new ones. While recognizing the role that women play in war – as victims, combatants or peace promoters, this article focuses on the psychological, economic and health implications for women, as victims of war and human rights. armed conflicts.
The psychological impact can be extremely traumatic for women who have lost their husbands, children or other family members to war and armed conflict. In addition, women also face the risk of physical injury and / or sexual violence when fleeing to a place of safety, further increasing the magnitude of the psychological impact on their well-being. In these situations, rape is often instrumentalized by the perpetrators of conflicts in an attempt to terrorize, dismantle and destabilize a population. For example, during the Rwandan genocide (1994), rape was used for the purposes of ethnic genocide on Tutsi women by Hutu men.
Given the strong psychological impact of war and conflict, it is important that gender and cultural dimensions are included in assistance programs provided on the ground. The inclusion of these dimensions is essential to ensure that women receive adequate support, especially those who come from societies where stereotypes and gender inequalities are prevalent. Women play a vital role at home and in the community and it is important that safe spaces are created so that their voices are not heard. Despite the horrific and traumatic experiences women go through in these circumstances, they are still able to demonstrate a remarkable level of strength and resilience as they transition to new roles and environments after conflict.
Displacement increases the economic burden on women who take responsibility for the daily survival of their families. This includes women heads of households, widows, elderly women and mothers of young children. The journey to finding refuge is often difficult and the chances of survival are not always guaranteed, especially when the journey is long, the routes taken are not safe, and food and water supplies are scarce. When seeking refuge, whether in refugee camps in neighboring communities or in a whole new country, women always find themselves in difficult conditions, including insufficient access to food, water, and shelter and health care.
As a result, women are then forced to travel long distances to find food, water, medicine and basic necessities to support their families. Under these conditions, women also depend more on the support of the local population or the assistance of international and non-governmental organizations. War and armed conflict are also contributing to the worsening of the global refugee crisis, for which several states have refused to take responsibility. We see this in Australia’s offshore processing policy in August 2012, which sends incoming asylum seekers (by boat) to detention camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
According to The Guardian, conditions in Nauru’s detention camps were “appalling”, including overcrowded tents and water shortages. While there is a moral duty to care for refugees, the decline of the global refugee crisis also confirms that the costs of war and armed conflict are too high for the international community and must be avoided at all costs.
Conditions exacerbated by war and armed conflict create an increased need for health care, while increasing the risk of epidemics and nutritional problems. As access to health care is limited under such conditions, medical care also becomes unaffordable for those in need and is financially constrained. Pregnancy and childbirth are major causes of death, illness and disability among young women, according to the ICRC.
For example, a young Iraqi mother, who gave birth in her war-torn country, told her story in a report published by the International Red Cross. She said: “When I had my daughter, I only had a midwife to rely on because there was no maternity clinic in Baquba. After giving birth, I had serious complications… Finally, I was taken to Baghdad despite all the risks and uncertainties of this trip. I don’t know how I managed to survive. In addition to this, cultural barriers can also create difficulties for women to access or receive appropriate health care. For example, in some cases, women may be prevented from receiving treatment without the company of a male relative or if treatment is not offered by medical personnel of the same sex.
Regardless of these barriers, women should be recognized for their role in maintaining the well-being of their families and therefore should be reflected in the health care they receive. These services include the treatment of antenatal, obstetric and postnatal care, family planning, as well as the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV / AIDS). If these problems are left untreated, the consequences can become serious and, to some extent, lead to death.
International humanitarian law (IHL) recognizes the protection of women in times of war and is legally binding on state and non-state actors. The main legislative texts underlying IHL are the four Geneva Conventions (1949) and the two Additional Protocols (1977). Each legislation recognizes the protection of women as civilians and as captured or injured combatants. Human rights and refugee law also provide additional protection for women affected by war and conflict. In addition, IHL also protects civilians from the effects of hostilities, abuse or violence, and guarantees adequate food, shelter and clothing, all of which are important to ensure that the civilian population remains healthy.
Despite the establishment of an international legal framework, the ICRC identifies a number of shortcomings and areas for improvement, particularly with regard to the implementation of IHL on the ground. These include the need to incorporate IHL into national law, to support alliances in conflict to use their influence to protect victims, to ensure that measures to comply with IHL are compatible with the protection of impartial humanitarian action and, the taking into account of the rise of new weapons and modes of warfare. which create new humanitarian concerns. It is the duty of the international community (at the level of States and individuals) to take the necessary measures to address these gaps in implementation in order to ensure respect for IHL and its full effect, in order to minimize and prevent abuses. suffering of civilians.
In conclusion, the implications of war and conflict can be serious and even fatal for women. It is essential that gender and cultural dimensions are included in the support provided on the ground to ensure that women are able to heal from such experiences and can rebuild their lives after conflict. The cost of war and armed conflict is significant enough for the international community, as the global refugee crisis shows, and these are costs that can be avoided when IHL is respected and applied thoroughly on the ground.