Main Navigation


Red Cross Live

Women and War: a conversation with Dr Helen Durham

This event explored key issues relating to the way women experience war, the ways in which women are protected during armed conflict and the ways in which protections for women have developed under international humanitarian law.

Women and War

Women experience conflict very differently from men. Women are increasingly playing an active role as combatants during conflict and must be treated with due respect in this capacity - for example, international humanitarian law (IHL) requires that women prisoners of war must be housed separately from men.

Female civilians caught up in conflict also experience particular issues. Women are particularly vulnerable to the separation of family, both during and after an armed conflict. Women in the civilian population also take on major responsibility in families and communties for coping with other consequences of armed conflict, especially when the health and security of civilian populations is not respected. After an armed conflict, women often play a key role in rebuilding communities and peace and security.

International humanitarian law seeks to prevent and alleviate suffering during times of war without discrimination based on sex. However, IHL recognises that women must often confront particular issues during war, such as sexual violence and risks to their health. Indeed, in today's conflicts, the impact of fighting on women can be severe.

This online conversation will seek to explore key issues relating to the way women experience war, the various ways in which women are protected during armed conflict and the ways in which protections for women have developed under IHL.


Dr Helen Durham

Dr Helen Durham

Dr Helen Durham is Director of International Law and Strategy at Australian Red Cross.

In her role she is responsible for the dissemination of IHL; development of research, policy and strategy; reporting processes and strategic growth. Helen has a PhD in international humanitarian law and is admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria. She has a long history with Red Cross having started with Australian Red Cross as National Manager of IHL in 1996; worked as Head of Office (Sydney) and Legal Adviser to the Regional Delegation of the ICRC in the Pacific; as Director of Research at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law (Melbourne Law School) and in the last few years in a range of senior leadership positions within Australian Red Cross. Helen is a member of Australian Red Cross National Leadership Team and regularly provides public presentations and representations in the media.

Helen has been involved in international legal negotiations in New York, Rome and Geneva and has done a number of short missions with the ICRC in Burma, Aceh and the Philippines. She is on the Editorial Board of the International Review and on the Advisory Board for the Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies. Helen is widely published in academic journals and teaches in the Masters of Law program at Melbourne Law School.