Gender and Human Shielding

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Human shielding occurs through the use of the body- A n individual or collective physical presence-which is not armed and does not rely on the use of force or fire. Understood as both a means (human shields) and a method (human shielding), shielding is the use of civilians or other protected persons, whose presence or movement is aimed or used to render military targets immune from military operations. Human shielding raises difficult doctrinal questions as to the interpretation and implementation of international humanitarian law that are not easily answered. This is in part because human shielding reanimates a series of queries that, as I argue elsewhere, are constitutive of international humanitarian law itself, namely: What and who is a combatant? What and who is a civilian? Who is to judge and according to which premises? Human shielding reanimates these questions because it is upon the definition of a civilian, in contradistinction to the combatant, that the power and efficacy of shielding depends. As I have shown, the distinction between civilian and combatant is partially constituted through discourses of gender which naturalize sex and sex difference. These discourses, as I sketch out below, are cited when theorizing the significance of human shields and reappear when evaluating the representation and meaning of the embodied movement of human shields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-310
Number of pages6
JournalAJIL Unbound
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by The American Society of International Law and Helen M. Kinsella.


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