Syria's week on Women and War
Regional, Culture, 2/5/2002
Under the patronage of President of Damascus University, in collaboration with the language Institute of Damascus University and the embassy of the Netherlands in Damascus, the International committee of the Red Cross ( ICRC) presents " women and war" week held on February 2- 6 at the faculty of dentistry, University of Damascus.
In a statement to Arabic News, Mrs. Charlotte Lindsey, author of the ICRC study on the impact of the armed conflict on women said that it was a good opportunity for the ICRC to present its study " women facing war" to an audience that we have not been able to reach before, and an opportunity to remind people that there is protection for women in war time and this must come to reality for women.
She added that this event will increase understanding with wide range of ways women are affected.
She continued that increasing understanding means it can bring in some way improving women's conditions.
Mrs. Lindsey added that her presentation looks at the needs of women in situation of conflict and then what does the International Law say in relations to the protection given to women; what the activities of the ICRC have in bringing assistance and protection to women in situations of armed conflicts. She hinted the aim is really to raise awareness of the way women are affected and draw attention to the fact that women are suffering not because of the lack of protection, but because this protection is not given to women. She explained that there are protection laws in Geneva Convention's additional protocols, but they are not implemented and respected as they should be.
She said that it seemed there was a sort of inevitability about women being victims of conflict in that it is assumed that violations, safety problems, lack of access to health care to food and to adequate shelter are not acceptable at war time and they do not have to happen. She urged that women must be given access to food, shelter, protection, health care and that is the law that must be implemented.
In a similar statement to Arabic News Mrs. Claire Bellmann, ICRC delegate, who has a presentation under the title " detention and internment of women in situations of armed conflicts " said that the attention of the presentation was to draw the attention of the public on the specific problems faced by women in detention and on the specific rules that exist to protect the women detainees. She explained that these rules exit in the International Humanitarian Law ( Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols ), as well as in the Human Rights laws ( with the standard minimum rules for the treatment of detainees and there is also the convention against torture in " Cruel and inhuman treatment."
Mrs. Bellmann added that the special protection that must be given to women detainees concern, first of all the respect of dignity and honor. This means that women have to be separated from male detainees and they have to be at the direct supervision of women guards. Women detainees are often isolated and receive less family visits than men and this is for many reasons including the fact this detention is often considered as more shameful than a woman that for a man. Pressure can also be exerted on her to remove young children who can be either placed in specialized institutions or simply be kept with the husband's family. while removing the mother's parental authority. She said that this, of course, can create great psychological problems for the mother. All aspects of women detainees life that relate to maintaining family links are very important.
She said that women can also be subjected to ill-treatment during interrogation like male detainees. Sexual aggression is common. It includes a wide- range of harassment, incites, threats on the honor and integrity of women, body searches carried out by men; rape and forced abortion.
She indicated that on all these topics, the ICRC can play an important role in the countries where it visits prisoners and detainees. She referred that the ICRC delegates carry out discussions with the detainees authority and with the detainees themselves in private, so that the detainees can express themselves freely, on the basis of its finding the ICRC then talks to the authority in charge and propose concrete measures to improve the conditions and treatment of detainees.
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