Treatment of children in conflict

Children are especially vulnerable during armed conflict. They are often abducted or forcibly displaced from their homes, and may be victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Children may face the threat of illegal recruitment, either by force or voluntarily, into armed forces and opposition groups. Child soldiers are further vulnerable because they witness and can commit violent atrocities, which will affect them for the rest of their lives.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement promotes respect for the rules of international humanitarian law that protect children in war, in particular:

  • the ban on recruitment and participation in armed conflicts of children;
  • the right to preserve or restore family unity;
  • the right of child victims of conflict to receive medical, psychological and social assistance.

Interested in learning more? Please download our Children and War toolkit and visit our Tools for Teachers section for resources to learn about international humanitarian law.

Treatment of women in conflict

Women face specific additional risks during armed conflict. These include the threat of sexual and gender-based violence; negative health consequences, especially during pregnancy; and added difficulties in protecting young children. Furthermore, women are often the primary caretakers for the household, fetching water, collecting firewood and providing food for their families. These activities can become very difficult and dangerous in times of conflict.

International humanitarian law provisions afforded to women include special protection from sexual violence. This includes rape, forced prostitution and any other form of indecent assault, all of which can constitute war crimes. Furthermore, children and mothers must be given priority when distributing humanitarian aid.

Female combatants who are no longer participating in conflict are afforded the same protections as men under international humanitarian law. However, women prisoners of war are afforded particular protection through the provision of separate detention quarters for female detainees. 

Interested in learning more? Please visit our Tools for Teachers section for resources to learn more about exploring international humanitarian law in the classroom.