Though outlawed in most nations, the measure represents the first time the traditional practice in African and Middle East nations has been denounced yesterday at such a high level in the United Nations.

More than 110 countries, including more than 50 African nations, co-sponsored the resolution in the General Assembly's rights committee, which called on states to "complement punitive measures with awareness-raising and educational activities" to eliminate female genital mutilation.

About 140 million women worldwide are believed to have been subjected to the practice in which a young girl's clitoris and labia are removed, in the belief that this will reduce libido and keep a woman chaste.