Women at War at Sea: How International Humanitarian Law Provides for the Protection of Female Members of the Armed Forces at Sea

in Gender and the Law of the Sea
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International humanitarian law (IHL) contains a family of provisions which govern the treatment and protection of female members of the armed forces at sea. Broadly, IHL affords women protection in their roles as combatants, civilians, and as persons hors de combat in armed conflict at sea. However the focus of this chapter is rather on the rules of IHL which provide a legal basis for the empowerment of women in the naval armed forces specifically. The chapter maps the existing IHL framework governing the treatment of female members of the armed forces at sea and addresses how the international legal obligation to treat female members of the armed forces at sea with all consideration due to their sex should be interpreted contemporarily by naval armed forces. The chapter considers how the unique nature of the shipboard environment may impact the ship’s ability to meet the distinct needs of women at sea; it clarifies what the distinct needs of navy women include; and concludes with practical recommendations on how States can reduce the impact of the unique nature of the shipboard environment on the identified needs of female members of the armed forces.

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