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The construction of social sex and gender roles means that armed conflict is sexed and gendered. Men still make up the majority of the fighting forces, while women's generally unequal and subordinate social and economic position makes them vulnerable in particular ways during conflict. Women and men, girls and boys all suffer gender-based violence. Such violence is directed at a person because of his or her gender. For instance men sustain specific harms such as disappearances and deliberate killings in greater numbers than women, while women disproportionately experience sexual violence. The detention of Bosnian Muslims at Potocari on 12 July 1995 and subsequent separation of women and men is illustrative of gender-based crimes. The International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) found that after separation, the Bosnian Muslim men had suffered 'severe beatings and other cruel treatments'. In the compound 'rapes and killings were reported by credible witnesses and some committed suicide out of terror. The entire situation in Potocari has been depicted as a campaign of terror. As an ultimate suffering, some women about to board the buses had their young sons dragged away from them, never to be seen again.


This material was originally published in The Oxford Handbook of International Law in Armed Conflict, edited by Andrew Clapham and Paola Gaeta and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit