Women and children

In situations of armed conflict it is vulnerable members of society, such as children, who fare the worst.

In recent conflicts more than 70% of casualties have been civilians, mostly women and children. Existing discrimination on the basis of gender is exacerbated during wartime. This can be seen in the specific effects of armed conflict on women.

  • In times of war women’s bodies are treated as a battleground. More than half of all those indicted at the International Criminal Court have been charged with rape and sexual assault. Women have also endured forced pregnancy, abduction and enslavement.
  • Most child victims of sexual violence are girls.
  • Victims of gender-based violence often face considerable difficulty in pursuing justice. The majority of cases are not reported.
  • Up to 80% of all refugees, both internal and external, are women and children.
  • Displaced women and children are at an increased risk of violence.
  • Displaced women and children suffer from food shortages and lack of healthcare, with complications arising during childbirth a leading cause of deaith. Displaced children are at high risk of malnutrition and disease.
  • Children as young as 7 have been reported as child soldiers. These children are often press-ganged into service and are valued for the fact that they are readily controlled by adults.
  • Women and children affected by war often experience great difficulty in re-integrating into post-war society.

Women have, however, not remained passive. In many adverse situations women have demonstrated great ingenuity and resilience to not only survive, but to assist in rebuilding societies devastated by war.

Essential readings on women and war from UNIFEMi
Crimes against Women in Situations of Armed Conflict
Women, War, Peace and Displacement

Essential readings on children and war
Report of Graca Machel on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children

Essential links
The Beijing Platform for Action: relevant sections, from the UN Fourth World Conference on Women.
Women, War, Health. A short online film from UNFPAi.

MAPW related policy
The Effect Of Detention Centres On The Health Of Children