Jimmy Carter on what he thinks is the world's greatest human rights crisis


Former president Jimmy Carter's new book calls on those in religious leadership roles to stop allowing religion to be an excuse for discrimination against women. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

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First aired on The Current (3/28/2014)

Sexual assaults, honour killings, prostitution, physical abuse: no matter where you look in our world, you will find women and girls being abused. It's why Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, calls it the biggest challenge of our times -- and addresses it in a new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power.

"Not many people know the horror of what happens to women and girls in history," Carter told The Current guest host Piya Chattopadhyay. Carter says that there were 32 million people killed during the Second World War -- "the worst war in history" -- but more than five times as many girls have been deliberately murdered by their parents in this generation alone. Carter also says that the "international trade in human beings exceeds what it was in the 19th century," and is annually about $32 billion and "about 800,000 people are sold across international borders every year -- 80 per cent of whom are girls are being sold into sexual slavery."

Such violence and abuse is an international dilemma, Carter says. He pointed out that "in the U.S. military alone, 26,000 sexual assaults took place and only about 300 actually resulted in anybody being punished." Additionally, only four per cent of rapes on college campuses are being reported. "There's an aversion to admit what goes on even in our most cherished institutions."

So why is this happening, and why is it not being discussed more? "The general community just won't admit it," Carter said. This is why he wrote Call to Action -- to start an international dialogue about what's going on, why, and what we can do about it. He also incorporates the book's message into his teachings as a preacher and Sunday School teacher, and gives speeches and writes editorials for newspapers.

Carter believes that in order for international change to occur, countries much first take a long, hard look at the injustices taking place at home. "The power and influences in the United Nations really rest with Europe and the United States. And if we are acquiescent or look the other way on the abuses that exist in our own country...then it's very difficult for us to correct the other problems."