The law that pertains to the behaviour of the world war is called International Humanitarian Law (IHL), often known as the rules of armed conflicts. It is the division of International law that intends to minimise the impact of armed conflicts by protecting civilians and restricting and controlling the weapons and tactics of warfare accessible to the fighters. International humanitarian law is created as a set of rules, established by treaty. The treaty seeks to protect persons and property that are, or may be affected by the armed conflicts and restricts the rights of parties to use their own choices of warfare ways.

The international humanitarian law (IHL) intends to protect the injured, ill, prisoners of war and the civilians who are captured by the enemies. The war not only suffers the man but the women’s and children’s do get suffered severely in the present scenario. Regardless of whether they are families of soldiers or civilians, women undergo systematic disadvantages which tend to escalate during armed conflicts. IHL aims to preserve civilians’ health, economic security, and physical safety. But unfortunately, when they fail, the women and the children are the ones who suffer the consequences.

Legal protection was launched into international humanitarian law soon after the Second World War. The worst experience in those conflicts pointed to the urgency of the implementation of public international law for protecting civilians during wartime.

Importance of Human Rights during Armed Conflicts

Armed conflicts are particularly described as, “A political war in which armed forces of a state or group of peoples trying to get the control on a part of the state, engage in armed fights where at least 1000 or more people killed as the result of combat.

Human rights are generally get breached during military conflicts. As a result, the specialists need to spend a lot of time to develop that can control the hard consequences the civilians need to face during the conflicts. Human rights law, refugee law, and humanitarian law are the three aspects of modern international law that are very useful in giving protection to war victims. In armed conflicts, humanitarian law is applicable. It limits the acts of parties involved in the war and ensures the complete protection of those who are directly not taking part in the fights.

When implemented, human rights can also face denial from society when treated unfairly because of many factors like caste, race, religion, language, gender, or any other quality. Human rights infringement can also occur as a result of violent conflicts. Well, the wars that begin when the disputes are over some resources, religion, or any territorial claims may thrive to new objections as one or more parties can violate human rights in some alleged ways.

Significance of International Humanitarian Law in Protection of Women & Children

Wars nowadays are no longer fought on isolated battlegrounds; instead, they fought in the middle of the city where local civilians reside. Thus, civilians faced most of the causalities. The women and children’s on the other hand are specifically the targeted victims. The provision of food supply, health services, water supply, fuel, and transportation is mainly hindered due to the war zone.

Amidst the legal protections provided by this law, in this widespread society, women and girls are abused physically, sexually during armed conflicts. The violence against women during the war is very common, and these crimes need to be taken care of with urgency. Women who are traveling alone or with small children during wartime are exploited and violated. Even women who take protection in the camps during war-time are at risk due to inadequate security structures.

It has been seen that sexual violence that occurs during the conflicts is underreported and the victims often face challenges in getting immediate help & support. Many of them experience social rejection, rejection by families, limited medical services & care, and many more to name a few.

Importance of International Humanitarian Law in the Protection of Children

During armed conflicts, children mainly are unprotected & insecure. Regardless of they are being protected by the laws, armed forces & organizations continue to hire them. The children are frequently separated from their families, forcefully removed from their houses, killed, sexually assaulted, wounded, or are exploited in many other ways. As civilians or soldiers, children in conflict enjoy the universal protection of international humanitarian law. However, some measures recognize their insecurity during wartime. There are many different situations where children can take part in conflicts & wars. They can support in various forms like transporting supplies, supplying military information’s which could put them in dangerous situations.

To run out of such issues & situations, there are additional protocols of the Geneva Convention in which it is clearly mentioned that recruiting or participating children under the age of 15 in such situations is absolutely illegal. The first additional protocol also states that military recruitment of 15 to 18-year-olds to be prioritized in international armed conflicts. It is illegal for armed organizations to use minors under the age of 18 under any circumstances says the act.

The children who are not participating in any armed conflicts face a variety of threats against which IHL and the related children’s rights provide offers particular protection & security. They are provided with non-combatant protection in general, but the Geneva Conventions and 1977 Protocols recognize their needs for medical assistance, housing, food, and clothing. Whereas, the orphaned, separated children must be found, protected, and given specific treatment & facilities to assure their physical protection. Also, it is mentioned that their educational requirements must be met. Also, all the necessary actions must be taken to reunite them with the families of those who have been separated.

The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) aspires to minimize the effects on children during the war-time. Unfortunately, in the present scenario, the necessities & efforts to protect the children from the horrors of the war and to help them in rebuilding their lives after the war are almost over.

The Protection of Children in the Geneva Convention and their Additional Protocols 

As mentioned earlier, the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) caters general protection for children those who take no part in armed conflicts as well as special protection for, particularly unsecured persons. However, children taking part in the conflicts are also protected as per the law. The various aspects of the legal protection of children will be examined as follows.

General Protection Of Children As A Member Of The Civilian Population

At the time of international armed conflicts, children fall under the category of those protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention. This means, the child is benefitted in particular from all the provisions & treatment of protected persons which states to abide by the basic principle of humane treatments including respect of life, moral integrity, and it prohibits the act of torture, punishments, penalties, and repressions.

While during the non-international armed conflicts, children are safeguarded by the basic assurance of the treating those good as persons taking no dynamic part in the war as mentioned in article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Well, under this article, children have at least the right to be protected humanely. There should not be any violence to their lives and dignity. It is also mentioned that children should be treated as civilian populations and shall not be the object of attack anymore.

Special Protection Of Children As A Member Of The Civilian Population

The Fourth Geneva Convention comprises many provisions in the favor of children. As already mentioned in the 1949 act, it was said that children should be protected against warfare. However, the rules relating to protecting the children are not stated anywhere in that convention.

So, to overcome the gap, under article 77, it is noted that children shall be treated respectfully and shall be secured against any form of assault. The parties involved shall provide them with the necessary care and aid they require.

Special Provisions Against The After-Effects Of The Armed Conflicts

The children who have not attained the age of 15 years and the mothers of children under seven years come into the category of the civilian population who can get the protection in hospitals or safety zones established by the parties to an international armed conflict as mentioned in the article 41 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

While in the case of non-International armed conflicts, it has been stated that the children should be immediately shifted to a safer place away from the war zone within the country. 

Right To Take Care & Help

It has already been stated that the parties to international armed fights should assist children with proper care and help.

The Fourth Geneva Convention also states the provisions of proper assistance of children’s needs & necessities.

Thus, each party must allow the free passage of relief for children fewer than 15 and maternity cases as mentioned in article 23. An occupying power also provides the proper working of institutions dedicated to the care of children in the territory (article 50). Parties to conflicts are rolled to provide adequate means of support including nursing mothers and children under 15, additional food according to their physiological needs.

According to article 78, the temporary evacuation of children is also provided under serious circumstances where health or medical treatment of the child is at the priority.

The Child And His Family

The UNESCO study on Children and Warfare and the provision of international humanitarian law which intends in maintaining the unity of a family during armed conflicts take on a special significance. Thus, according to the study:

 ” When we realized the nature of the mental & emotional suffering of the child who is a target of the war, we come to know that it is not the facts of war itself – such as bombings, military operations – which have affected him emotionally; his interest for destruction and movement can reflect itself to the worst dangers.”

Protocol I state the general duties & responsibilities of High Contracting Parties and parties to a conflict to enable the reuniting of families.

The Fourth Geneva Convention mentions that wherever possible, the interned members of the same family shall be kept together in the same facility and given separate accommodation from other internees. Also, the internees whose children are left at custody without parental assistance shall be interned with them.

In the case of a family who is detained, arrested, or interned mothers having dependent infants also comes under the same protocol of keeping mother & child together. This case must be considered at utmost priority. Also, the parties to the conflict need to remember that if these women are sentenced to death, the penalty shall not be executed either.

For children, less than 12 years shall be given identity discs to be identified in particular. An occupying power shall assist the identification of children and registration of their parentage, and provide the necessary information. There will be a special section that will be responsible for identifying children whose identity is in doubt. There seems to be extreme importance of having a system for identifying children, especially infants, and is the only way to prevent thousands of them from being abandoned.

Children’s Education 

The education of a child is most important. In addition to the above-mentioned provisions, education of the children who are separated, orphaned, the fourth Geneva Conventions imposes particular duties of a general nature concerning the education of children. The occupying power should assist in the proper working of all institutions dedicated to the education of children. The detaining power shall assure its assistance in the education of interned children and young people who shall be allowed to attend schools and colleges.

The Personal Rights Of The Children

The Fourth Geneva Convention restricts an occupying power from altering a child’s status. Thus, neither his nationality nor civil status should be changed if his country is occupied during an international armed conflict.

Children And The Death Penalty

The authors of the Fourth Geneva Convention and The Additional Protocols have fixed the minimum age limit for the execution of the death penalty at 18 years as an absolute age limit.

Protection Of Children Who Are Taking Part In The Warfare Tactics

This problem arrives when the civilians and combatants are often mixed. Children’s involvement in the conflicts, which can also be extended from direct help or indirect help taking part in the conflicts or even being enlisted in the armed forces should be considered within the context. The participation of children in hostilities cannot be prevented. Thus, Protocols aims of forbidding the recruitment of young people under 15. Moreover, the Protocol encourages the parties to a conflict; if they recruit children aged between 18 to 15 years, at least enroll the oldest first.


Countless provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) are secured that establish and develop the principle of special protection for children during armed forces conflicts. Whether for children or whether for the victims of armed conflicts, the international humanitarian law works undoubtedly to the principle that child victims of war must be protected with care. It is highly recommended that the protection of children should be the priority of the authorities.


Author: Jagriti .,
Manav Rachna University , 5th Year , B.A.LLB(hons)

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