Gender, Conflict and International Humanitarian Law: A critique of the 'principle of distinction', 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Gender, Conflict and International Humanitarian Law

A critique of the 'principle of distinction', 1st Edition

By Orly Maya Stern


252 pages

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This book conducts a gendered critique of the ‘principle of distinction’ in international humanitarian law (IHL), with a focus on recent conflicts in Africa.

The ‘principle of distinction’ is core to IHL, and regulates who can and cannot be targeted in armed conflict. It states that civilians may not be targeted in attack, while combatants and those civilians directly participating in hostilities can be. The law defines what it means to be a combatant and a civilian, and sets out what behaviour constitutes direct participation. Close examination of the origins of the principle reveals that IHL was based on a gendered view of conflict, which envisages men as fighters and women as victims of war. Problematically, this view often does not accord with the reality in ‘new wars’ today in which women are playing increasingly active roles, often forming the backbone of fighting groups, and performing functions on which armed groups are highly reliant. Using women’s participation in ‘new wars’ in Africa as a study, this volume critically examines the principle through a gendered lens, questioning the extent to which the principle serves to protect women in modern conflicts and how it fails them. By doing so, it questions whether the principle of distinction is suitable to effectively regulate the conduct of hostilities in new wars.

This book will be of much interest to students of international law, gender studies, African politics, war and conflict studies, and international relations.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. The Principle of Distinction 3. Women in Conflict in Africa 4. Gender and International Humanitarian Law 5. The Divide Between International and Non-International Armed Conflicts – A Precursory Step to the Application of the Principle of Distinction 6. Applying the Principle of Distinction to Women in African War 7. Does the Principle of Distinction Serve Women in Modern Conflict? 8. Conclusions

About the Author

Orly Maya Stern is a senior fellow with Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, USA. She is also a researcher, consultant and human rights lawyer, and holds a PhD in law from the London School of Economics, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Humanitarian Action

This book series offers an interdisciplinary platform for the study of issues pertaining to humanitarianism, such as humanitarian principles, humanitarian space, resilience, safety and security, international law of humanitarian action, to mention but a few. It aims to broaden understanding of these issues and their interconnection from different angles – such as politics, law, economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology – brought together under the heading of Humanitarian Studies.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
LAW / International
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Human Rights
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies