Jimmy Carter: Why I believe the mistreatment of women... (1)
Jimmy Carter: Why I believe the mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse (1)
As a matter of fact, I was trying to think about my career since I left the White House, and the best example I have is a cartoon in The New Yorker a couple of years ago.
This little boy is looking up at his father, and he says, "Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president. (Laughter)
Well, I have had a great blessing as a former president, because I have had an access that very few other people in the world have ever had to get to know so many people around this whole universe.
Not only am I familiar with the 50 states in the United States, but also my wife and I have visited more than 145 countries in the world, and the Carter Center has had full-time programs in 80 nations on Earth. And a lot of times, when we go into a country, we not only the meet the king or the president, but we also meet the villagers who live in the most remote areas of Africa. So our overall commitment at the Carter Center is to promote human rights, and knowing the world as I do, I can tell you without any equivocation that the number one abuse of human rights on Earth is, strangely, not addressed quite often, is the abuse of women and girls.
There are a couple of reasons for this that I'll mention to begin with.
First of all is the misinterpretation of religious scriptures, holy scriptures, in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Quran and so forth, and these have been misinterpreted by men who are now in the ascendant positions in the synagogues and the churches and in the mosques. And they interpret these rules to make sure that women are ordinarily relegated to a secondary position compared to men in the eyes of God. This is a very serious problem.
It's ordinarily not addressed. A number of years ago, in the year 2000, I had been a Baptist, a Southern Baptist for 70 years -- I tell you, I still teach Sunday school every Sunday; I'll be teaching this Sunday as well -- but the Southern Baptist Convention in the year 2000 decided that women should play a secondary position, a subservient position to men. So they issued an edict, in effect, that prevents women from being priests, pastors, deacons in the church, or chaplains in the military, and if a woman teaches a classroom in a Southern Baptist seminary, they cannot teach if a boy is in the room, because you can find verses in the Bible, there's over 30,000 verses in the Bible, that say that a woman shouldn't teach a man, and so forth. But the basic thing is the scriptures are misinterpreted to keep men in an ascendant position. That is an all-pervasive problem, because men can exert that power and if an abusive husband or an employer, for instance, wants to cheat women, they can say that if women are not equal in the eyes of God, why should I treat them as equals myself? Why should I pay them equal pay for doing the same kind of work? The other very serious blight that causes this problem is the excessive resort to violence, and that is increasing tremendously around the world.
In the United States of America, for instance, we have had an enormous increase in abuse of poor people, mostly black people and minorities, by putting them in prison. When I was in office as governor of Georgia, one out of every 1,000 Americans were in prison. Nowadays, 7.3 people per 1,000 are in prison. That's a sevenfold increase. And since I left the White House, there's been an 800 percent increase in the number of women who are black who are in prison. We also have [one of the only countries] on Earth that still has the death penalty that is a developed country. And we rank right alongside the countries that are most abusive in all elements of human rights in encouraging the death penalty. We're in California now, and I figured out the other day that California has spent four billion dollars in convicting 13 people for the death penalty. If you add that up, that's 307 million dollars it costs California to send a person to be executed. Nebraska this week just passed a law abolishing the death penalty, because it costs so much. (Applause) So the resort to violence and abuse of poor people and helpless people is another cause of the increase in abuse of women. Let me just go down a very few abuses of women that concern me most, and I'll be fairly brief, because I have a limited amount of time, as you know.
One is genital mutilation.
Genital mutilation is horrible and not known by American women, but in some countries, many countries, when a child is born that's a girl, very soon in her life, her genitals are completely cut away by a so-called cutter who has a razor blade and, in a non-sterilized way, they remove the exterior parts of a woman's genitalia. And sometimes, in more extreme cases but not very rare cases, they sew the orifice up so the girl can just urinate or menstruate. And then later, when she gets married, the same cutter goes in and opens the orifice up so she can have sex. This is not a rare thing, although it's against the law in most countries. In Egypt, for instance, 91 percent of all the females that live in Egypt today have been sexually mutilated in that way. In some countries, it's more than 98 percent of the women are cut that way before they reach maturity. This is a horrible affliction on all women that live in those countries. Another very serious thing is honor killings, where a family with misinterpretation, again, of a holy scripture -- there's nothing in the Quran that mandates this -- will execute a girl in their family if she is raped or if she marries a man that her father does not approve, or sometimes even if she wears inappropriate clothing.
And this is done by members of her own family, so the family becomes murderers when the girl brings so-called disgrace to the family. An analysis was done in Egypt not so long ago by the United Nations and it showed that 75 percent of these murders of a girl are perpetrated by the father, the uncle or the brother, but 25 percent of the murders are conducted by women. Another problem that we have in the world that relates to women particularly is slavery, or human trafficking it's called nowadays.
There were about 12.5 million people sold from Africa into slavery in the New World back in the 19th century and the 18th century. There are 30 million people now living in slavery. The United States Department of State now has a mandate from Congress to give a report every year, and the State Department reports that 800,000 people are sold across international borders every year into slavery, and that 80 percent of those sold are women, into sexual slavery. In the United States right this moment, 60,000 people are living in human bondage, or slavery. Atlanta, Georgia, where the Carter Center is located and where I teach at Emory University, they have between 200 and 300 women, people sold into slavery every month. It's the number one place in the nation because of that. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world, and they also have a lot of passengers that come from the Southern Hemisphere. If a brothel owner wants to buy a girl that has brown or black skin, they can do it for 1,000 dollars. A white-skinned girl brings several times more than that, and the average brothel owner in Atlanta and in the United States now can earn about $35,000 per slave. The sex trade in Atlanta, Georgia, exceeds the total drug trade in Atlanta, Georgia. So this is another very serious problem, and the basic problem is prostitution, because there's not a whorehouse in America that's not known by the local officials, the local policemen, or the chief of police or the mayor and so forth. And this leads to one of the worst problems, and that is that women are bought increasingly and put into sexual slavery in all countries in the world.