The UN General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation, a centuries-old practice stemming from the belief that circumcising girls controls women's sexuality and enhances fertility.
It has also been linked to religious and cultural practices, although Muslim and Christian leaders have spoken out against it.
Although not legally binding, General Assembly resolutions reflect international concerns and carry moral and political weight.
The UN said in 2010 that about 70 million girls and women had undergone the procedure, and the World Health Organization said about 6 000 girls were circumcised every day.
The resolution, cosponsored by over 100 countries and adopted by consensus, calls the practice harmful and a serious threat to the psychological, sexual and reproductive health of women and girls.
It calls on the UN's 193 member states to condemn the practice and launch education campaigns to eliminate it. It also urges all countries to enact and enforce legislation to prohibit the practice and to end impunity for violators.
According to Amnesty International, female genital mutilation is commonplace in 28 countries in Africa as well as in Yemen, Iraq, Malaysia, Indonesia and among certain ethnic groups in South America, but it is also a worldwide concern because it is also practiced by immigrants in Diaspora communities.
Amnesty International's UN representative Jose Luis Diaz called the resolution "a first" for the General Assembly and an important moment for campaigners against "this grotesque practice."
(EurekAlert, December 2012)