Ten UN agencies have launched a campaign to significantly reduce female circumcision
by 2015 and abandon the damaging practice within a generation.
In a statement, the agencies said female circumcision violates the rights of women and girls to health, protection, and even life since the procedure sometimes results in death.
The agencies, which include the UN Development Program; the UN Economic Commission for Africa, pledged to support all efforts by governments, communities, women and girls to reduce and end the practice.
Female circumcision usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor.
"Today, we must stand and firmly oppose this practice because it clashes with our core universal values and constitutes a challenge to human dignity and health," Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told the Commission on the Status of Women where the campaign was launched.
According to UN agencies, between 100 million and 140 million women and girls are estimated to have undergone female circumcision, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedure every year.
It is practiced by Muslims and Christians alike, deeply rooted in the Nile Valley region and parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and is also done in Yemen and Oman. Through migration, the practice has spread. The 10 agencies said in their statement that "the ambitious goal of eliminating female genital mutilation within a generation can be achieved by building on the progress of existing programs and working hand in hand with communities."