New York- US (PANA) -- Fresh from her visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which she described as the "rape capital of the world", a senior UN official Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to make the prevention of sexual violence a top priority.
The official also stressed the need to end impunity for the scourge.
"Women have no rights, if those who violate their rights go unpunished," Margot Wallstrom, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told the 15-member body, which convened an open debate on the issue of women and peace and security.
"Ending impunity for sexual violence is a critical part of the Security Council's broader mandate to shepherd situations from might to right, from rule of war to rule of law, from bullets to ballots," Wallstrom noted.
She said: "If women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced.
" Wallstrom said she is haunted by what she heard in the DRC -- that women are still not safe, under their own roofs, in their own beds, when night falls.
She stated that, "our aim must be to uphold international law, so that women, even in the war-torn corners of the world, can sleep under the cover of justice.
" According to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), more than 8,000 women were raped in the DRC during fighting between warring factions last year.
The UN mission there, known as MONUC, has been trying to combat the problem by developing a greater presence on the ground, escorting women going to market or fetching firewood or water, developing early warning systems and working with local mayors.
However, the UN official said that, "at the same time, sexual violence remains a dominant, even escalating, feature of the conflict in DRC, which continues to be "the rape capital of the world.
" She noted that the core of the problem is impunity, "which is the rule rather than the exception.
" She also warned that politically-motivated rape is a disturbing trend, witnessed in the wake of Kenya's contested elections and more recently, in broad daylight on the streets of Guinea.
Such crimes, the envoy said, present a security crisis that demands a security response.
Ending impunity is one of the five priorities Wallstrom, who was appointed in February, has set for herself, in addition to empowering women, mobilizing political leadership, increasing recognition of rape as a tactic and consequence of conflict and ensuring a more coherent response from the UN system.
Also briefing the UN Security Council, Rachel Mayanja, the UN special adviser on gender issues and advancement of women, stressed the secretary-general's commitment to tackling violence against women.
"Through the appointment of his special representative on sexual violence in armed conflict, he has demonstrated his determination to address the persistent scourge of violence against women, including sexual violence, to lead by example and to strive to empower women and girls to play a meaningful role in peace and security, including in situations or armed conflict," Mayanja said.
She noted that Ban himself has witnessed and been deeply troubled by the effects of violence, abuse and blatant violations of the rights of women and girls in conflict-affected countries and he remains "unflinchingly" committed to this cause.
In a presidential statement adopted at the end of the meeting, the Security Council took note of the indicators put forth in the report, adding that they will need "technical and conceptual development'' before they can become operational.
It also expressed its intention to take action on the indicators on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Resolution 1325, which will be marked in October.