The Security Council Monday sent a strong signal to perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict that their crimes will not be tolerated, adopting a new resolution to strengthen efforts to end impunity for a scourge that affects not only large numbers of women and girls but also men and boys.

In three previous resolutions – 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2010) – the Council affirmed that sexual violence, when committed systematically and used as a tool of war, is a fundamental threat to international peace and security, requiring an operational security and judicial response. During a debate on women and peace and security, the 15-member body on Monday unanimously adopted resolution 2106, by which it emphasized more consistent and rigorous investigation and prosecution of sexual violence crimes as a central aspect of deterrence, and ultimately prevention.

It emphasized that “effective steps to prevent and respond to such acts significantly contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security; and stresses women’s participation as essential to any prevention and protection response…” The Council recognized the need for “more timely, objective, accurate and reliable information” as a basis for prevention and response, and requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and relevant United Nations entities to speed up the establishment of monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence.

Also addressing the debate was actress and activist Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who emphasized that tackling war-zone sexual violence is the Council’s responsibility, as well as the duty of Governments in countries affected by it. And when Governments cannot act, the Council must step in and provide leadership and assistance.

“I understand that there are many things that are difficult for the UN Security Council to agree on. But sexual violence in conflict should be not be one of them,” she said. “That it is a crime to rape young children is not something I imagine anyone in this room would not be able to agree on.”

What was needed, she emphasized, was political will. Every country in the world is affected by sexual violence, and all countries have a responsibility to step forward. “But the starting point must be you, the UN Security Council – shouldering your responsibilities and showing leadership… If the Security Council sets rape and sexual violence in conflict as a priority, it will become one and progress will be made. If you do not, this horror will continue.”

Speaking from her experience as a lawyer and activist working to bring justice to victims of sexual violence in conflict, Jane Adong Anywar of the Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice said that leadership on accountability for conflict-related crimes, including sexual violence, must be provided at the national level, with priority given to resourcing; adequate legislation prohibiting acts of sexual violence; and capacity building for police, investigators, lawyers and judges regarding the adjudication of these crimes.

In his remarks, Pakistan UN Ambassador Masood Khan especially praised the role of UN women leaders, who briefed the 15-nation Council on Monday, for their commitment to protect of women's rights caught in conflicts.