Un against female circumcision: “violation of human rights”.

The United Nations General Assembly adopts a comprehensive and global ban on female genital mutilation.

Awareness campaign in Egypt about female genital mutilation. Image: reuters

The United Nations has taken what is seen as a historic step towards an international outlawing of female genital mutilation. A UN General Assembly committee on Monday passed by acclamation a resolution calling on all states to take measures, up to and including a ban, to protect women and girls from "this form of violence" and end impunity for it.

The vote took place in the UN General Assembly’s "Third Committee," which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural issues; its confirmation by the General Assembly is expected in December and is considered a formality.

Female circumcision, up to and including the most brutal possible form of removal of all genitalia, is widespread, especially among Muslims in Africa, and is estimated to affect three million people a year. Circumcision is banned in many countries, but continues to be practiced nonetheless.

In 2011, the African Union had decided to promote an international ban at the UN level. The non-binding resolution now adopted was first submitted by the African Group of States to the UN and has now been jointly introduced by 110 of the 193 UN member states.

Women’s organizations see the adoption as an important means of putting more pressure on recalcitrant governments to implement a ban on female circumcision and retraining of circumcisers.

The text calls female circumcision an "irreparable, irreversible violation of the human rights of women and girls and a threat to their health" and declares Feb. 6 "International Day of Zero Tolerance against Female Genital Mutilation."