GJC President, Janet Benshoof, spoke in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 24, 2016, on GJC’s commitment to ensuring women have equal protection under the Geneva Conventions. You can watch the speech here and read the full transcript below.
Transcript, Janet Benshoof’s remarks, World Humanitarian Summit, May 24, 2016
Thank you, distinguished participants. My name is Janet Benshoof, and I’m the President of the Global Justice Center, a human rights organization dedicated to taking international law from paper to practice, to making the law a living reality for all people everywhere.
This summit is critical. States have demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to humanitarian aid policies that advance women’s rights to equality. The Global Justice Center is committed to ensuring that women’s equality rights are permanent, irreversible, and enforceable by international laws. While today’s humanitarian aid is provided in a variety of situations including conflict and natural disasters, that aid is governed under different legal regimes. One set of principles, one set of laws, does not fit all humanitarian action. In conflict, international humanitarian law governs the rights of girls and women and all war victims targeted by rape and other forms of sexual violence.
The Global Justice Center pledges to speak up to ensure that women get equal protection under the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions, including Common Article 3, are not gender blind. Civilians and combatants have positive inalienable rights to nondiscrimination as the Geneva Conventions define nondiscrimination. And this means that women are entitled to special needs, special rights, and the only distinction that is prohibited is when it is adverse to women.
This means that girls and women who are raped and impregnated in armed conflict must be provided with all the medical care they need, in all circumstances, regardless of national laws, just like other wounded civilians and soldiers. This includes abortion services, which are necessary to save the health and lives of girls. Half of those who become pregnant in armed conflict are children.
To uphold the Geneva Conventions, humanitarian actors must ensure that the outcome, not a gender sensitive process, of medical care provided women is in no way less favorable than the medical care provided men. Although aid to victims of armed conflict is only a small proportion of all humanitarian aid, upholding the strong equality rights for women under the Geneva Conventions is a bellwether for a global humanitarian regime that furthers the rule of law and advances global justice. We must not let the Geneva Conventions remain mired in the patriarchal mud of their origins.