UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution Thursday 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 U.N. 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 more than 100 countries and adopted by consensus, calls the practice harmful and a serious threat to the female psychological, sexual, and reproductive health. It calls on the U.N.'s 193 member states to condemn the practice and begin education campaigns to eliminate it. It also urges countries to enact legislation to prohibit the practice.

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 South American ethnic groups, but it is a worldwide concern because it is also practiced diaspora communities.

Amnesty International's U.N. representative Jose Luis Diaz called the resolution an important moment for campaigners against "this grotesque practice."