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Last edited: July 05, 2013

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  • Protection within conflict-affected settings is widely defined as “all activities aimed at obtaining full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with the letter and spirit of relevant bodies of law” (IASC Gender Handbook, 2006, pg.12). Protection activities aim to create an environment in which human dignity is respected, specific patterns of abuse are prevented or their immediate effects alleviated, and dignified conditions of life are restored.
  • The following three bodies of law provide a comprehensive legal framework for the protection of women and girls in humanitarian contexts:
    • international humanitarian law,
    • international human rights law,
    • international criminal law.
  • This international legal framework for protection can be also considered in light of the following two elements:

‘Hard Law’

These are ‘legally binding’ for states.

  • International human rights treaties/conventions that a State has ratified or acceded to,
  • International humanitarian law
  • UN resolutions


‘Soft Law’

These are non-binding, but carry significant moral commitment and responsibility in the international community.

• International guidelines

• International conference documents, declarations, programmes of action


Source: excerpt from: UNHCR. 2008. Handbook for the Protection of Women and Girls, pg. 333.