She described more than 100 allegations of rape in Tigray since Ethiopia’s federal army pushed out the former regional ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, from the capital Mekelle in November. Other estimates of rape are much higher.
The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, urged the council to do more to help women and girls in Tigray and for “independent credible investigations” into the commanders of various armed groups behind such attacks.
“We as a council must address reports of women being forced by military elements to have sex for basic commodities and reports of sexual violence against women and girls in refugee camps among other horrific information,” said Ms Thomas-Greenfield.
The UN updates an annual blacklist of armed groups that commit the most heinous sex attacks. Among the worst abusers are rebel, opposition and terrorist groups linked to the Islamic State or Al Qaeda extremist networks.
The list also includes government and police forces in Congo and South Sudan; government forces and intelligence services in Syria; armed groups in Sudan; and army and police in Somalia and forces in the semi-autonomous Puntland region.
Myanmar’s military, which in February staged a coup against the country’s democratically elected government and has since brutally cracked down on protesters, is also accused of such violence.
In the West African nation of Cameroon, the UN says 24 women were allegedly raped during a military operation against separatists in February last year, an incident that was not disclosed until July.
Government lockdowns and travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have curtailed job opportunities for women and increased the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation, said the UN.
In Iraq, Syria and Yemen, the pandemic has led to an increase in child marriage and “survival sex”, added the report.
Denis Mukwege, a Nobel peace prize laureate and gynaecologist who has treated hundreds of rape victims in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, urged council members to do more than just debate the subject.
“The progress in international law should not hide the fact that the scourge of sexual violence, which is a real pandemic, continues to prevail in all situations of conflict,” Dr Mukwege told diplomats.
“Responses remain underfunded and the climate of impunity for sexual-related crimes remains more the rule than the exception.”