The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution paving the way for military intervention in Mali to retake the north from Islamist extremists.
The resolution requests a detailed plan for such an operation from African organisations within 45 days.
The UN has so far refused to endorse requests for military intervention without details of a plan....
Earlier this week, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic returned from Mali and warned that the Islamist militias had imposed a harsh version of Sharia law on the areas they controlled.
Mr Simonovic said that he had heard testimony that forced marriage, forced prostitution, and rape were widespread, and that women were being sold as "wives" for less than $1,000 (£620).
They have also stoned to death an unwed couple and amputated the hand of an alleged thief as well as destroying ancient shrines in the historical city of Timbuktu, claiming they violated Sharia law and promoted idolatry among Muslims.
The UN has warned that the destruction of the shrines could amount to war crimes and the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged atrocities.
More detail on Mr Simonovic's findings at CNN:
Radical Islamists are compiling a list of unmarried mothers in northern Mali, raising fears of cruel punishments such as stoning, amputations and executions, a senior United Nations official said.
Islamists controlling most of the north have vowed to impose a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia. Local radical groups have said the law condemns relationships outside marriage.
The U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, who just returned from a visit to Mali, said there are reports Islamist groups are compiling lists of women who have had children out of wedlock, or who were unmarried and pregnant.
"The threat is there, it's real and people live with it and they are afraid of those lists," Ivan Simonovic said this week. "This could indicate that these women are at imminent risk of being subjected to cruel and inhumane punishment."
In July, Islamists forced a man and a woman into two holes and stoned them to death for committing adultery as terrified residents quietly watched in remote Aguelhok town.
Extremists have conducted public executions, amputations, floggings and other inhuman and degrading punishments, Simonovic said.
Women and children face greater risk, he said.
More women in the region are ending up in forced marriages. And with wives costing less than $1,000, husbands are also reselling the women, according to Simonovic.
He said the process is "a smokescreen for enforced prostitution and rapes" occurring in the region...
The militants are also buying children and enlisting them as soldiers, paying their families $600 -- a major incentive in a country where more than half the population lives on $1.25 a day, he said.
In addition, the Islamists have also banned smoking, drinking, watching sports on television and listening to music.