International human rights laws and systems, relate to the rights of women in times of peace, but also to women’s situation in armed conflicts. Human rights law adopts a more gendered approach than international humanitarian law (IHL).
The major binding UN instruments on human rights – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), state that all rights in the Covenants shall be applied equally to men and women.
The Covenants do not deal specifically with women or men in situations of armed conflict, but contain legally binding fundamental human rights which apply both in peacetime and in wartime, for example the right to education, the right to employment and the right to political participation.
The rights of women contained in international human rights conventions cover a wider range of situations in women’s lives as individuals as well as family members, for example, in relation to reproductive rights, education, marriage, access to justice etc. IHL only provides protection for women arising from the effects of armed conflicts or occupation, mainly relating to health issues, women as caretakers of children, and to a limited extent, the rights of women combatants.
UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expressly obliges state parties to "modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customary and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women” (art 5 CEDAW). This obligation continues to apply in times of armed conflict.
CEDAW even allows for temporary affirmative action ("positive discrimination") in order to solve the problems of inequality between women and men in society (article 4 CEDAW).To UN and Women Watch where you find more information on women's human rights
The Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict
The Declaration on the Protection of Women and Children in Emergency and Armed Conflict is a UN General Assembly resolution giving express recognition to women’s particular vulnerability in armed conflicts, and their specific needs for protection.
Special Rapporteurs have been appointed by the United Nations to protect women's rights in armed conflicts. A Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences, whose mandate includes armed conflicts, is tied to the UN Human RIghts Council. The Rapporteur’s work includes transmitting urgent appeals, and communications, to states regarding alleged cases of violence against women, undertaking fact-finding country visits and submitting annual thematic reports.
Further, the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (that ceased to exist following the establishment of the UN Human Rights Council in August 2006) has appointed a Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Systematic Rape, Sexual Slavery and Slavery-like Practices during Periods of Armed Conflict, with the mandate to undertake an in-depth study on the topic.