Rule 119. Women who are deprived of their liberty must be held in quarters separate from those of men, except where families are accommodated as family units, and must be under the immediate supervision of women.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
The Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions require that women who are deprived of their liberty be accommodated in separate quarters from those of men.[1] They also require women deprived of their liberty to be under the immediate supervision of women.[2] This rule is set forth in Article 75 of Additional Protocol I as a fundamental guarantee applicable to all women deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict.[3]
Many military manuals specify that female detainees must be accommodated in separate quarters from those of men.[4] Sweden’s IHL Manual, in particular, identifies Article 75 of Additional Protocol I as a codification of customary international law.[5] The legislation of several States requires that female and male detainees be housed separately.[6]
Additional Protocol II provides that, “except when men and women of a family are accommodated together, women shall be held in quarters separated from those of men and shall be under the immediate supervision of women”.[7] Separate accommodation for male and female detainees is required by other instruments pertaining also to non-international armed conflicts.[8]
This rule is contained in several military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts.[9] The legislation of several States and other regulations require that female and male detainees be housed separately.[10]
The practice collected in respect of this rule is supported by the requirement to take the specific needs of women affected by armed conflict into account (see Rule 134), and in particular to prevent women becoming victims of sexual violence (see Rule 93). In fact, the purpose of this rule is to implement the specific protection accorded to women. The rule that members of the same family must be housed together is supported by the requirement to respect family life (see Rule 105).
No official contrary practice was found with respect to either international or non-international armed conflicts. It is the ICRC's experience that separation of men and women in detention generally occurs. If sometimes only minimal separation is provided, this is not because of a lack of acceptance of this rule but rather a result of limited resources available to the detaining authorities. Additional Protocol II, in particular, provides that this rule must be respected by those who are responsible for the internment or detention “within the limits of their capabilities”.[11]
[1] Third Geneva Convention, Article 25, fourth paragraph (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 37, § 99), Article 29, second paragraph (ibid., § 99), Article 97, fourth paragraph (ibid., § 100 ) and Article 108, second paragraph (ibid., § 100); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 76, fourth paragraph (ibid., § 101), Article 82, third paragraph (ibid., § 102), Article 85, fourth paragraph (ibid., § 103) and Article 124, third paragraph (ibid., § 104).
[2] Third Geneva Convention, Article 97, fourth paragraph (ibid., § 100 ) and Article 108, second paragraph (ibid., § 100); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 76, fourth paragraph (ibid., § 101) and Article 124, third paragraph (ibid., § 104).
[3] Additional Protocol I, Article 75(5) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 105).
[4] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 112), Australia (ibid., § 113), Cameroon (ibid., § 114), Canada (ibid., § 115), Italy (ibid., § 116), Netherlands (ibid., § 117), New Zealand (ibid., § 118), Senegal (ibid., § 119), Spain (ibid., § 120), Sweden (ibid., § 121), Switzerland (ibid., § 122), United Kingdom (ibid., § 123), and United States (ibid., §§ 124–125).
[5] Sweden, IHL Manual (ibid., § 121).
[6] See, e.g., the legislation of Bangladesh (ibid., § 127), Ireland (ibid., § 128), Norway (ibid., § 129), Pakistan (ibid., § 130) and Rwanda (ibid., § 131); see also the draft legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 126).
[7] Additional Protocol II, Article 5(2)(a) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 106).
[8] See, e.g., Memorandum of Understanding on the Application of International Humanitarian Law between Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, § 4 (ibid., § 109); Agreement on the Application of International Humanitarian Law between the Parties to the Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, § 2.3 (ibid., § 110); UN Secretary-General’s Bulletin, Section 8(e) (ibid., § 111).
[9] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 112), Australia (ibid., § 113), Cameroon (ibid., § 114), Canada (ibid., § 115), Italy (ibid., § 116), Netherlands (ibid., § 117), New Zealand (ibid., § 118), Senegal (ibid., § 119) and Spain (ibid., § 120).
[10] See, e.g., the legislation of Pakistan (ibid., § 130) and Rwanda (ibid., § 131) and the practice of India (ibid., §§ 133–134) and Malaysia (ibid., § 136).
[11] Additional Protocol II, Article 5(2) (chapeau).