U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the world's political leaders and governments to stop tolerating violence against women.
Mr. Ban spoke forcefully and with personal conviction at a U.N. observance of International Women's Day, which is Sunday.
"Violence against women cannot be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government," he stressed.
Just back from a week-long trip to Africa that took him to several countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, where rape is a weapon of war, Mr. Ban spoke of his encounter with an 18-year-old female victim in a hospital in the eastern city of Goma.
"Fleeing the fighting that destroyed her village, she was brutally and violently raped by four soldiers at gunpoint," he said. "Doctors at the hospital can repair her wounds. But can even doctors heal her soul?"
Mr. Ban said he spoke out about these "unspeakable atrocities" during his meeting with Congo's President Joseph Kabila.
"The fact is that 80 percent of these sexual violences are perpetuated by the other armed groups or rebels. But I told President Kabila that does not make any excuse. As the leader of their country - a sovereign leader of a sovereign country - whenever, wherever this sexual violence may happen then he must be responsible as a leader of the country," he said.
The United Nations says worldwide, one in five women suffer rape or attempted rape. In some countries, as many as one in three women are beaten or suffer other abuse. Often, the perpetrators go unpunished.
The secretary-general said violence against women is an attack on everyone, because women are the fabric of society, and the impact of such violence on society is beyond calculation.
"Violence against women is an abomination. I would like to call it a crime against humanity," he said.
The secretary-general's Unite to End Violence Against Women campaign seeks to mobilize men and women to prevent violence against women and girls.