In an interview with the News, former President Jimmy Carter decried violence against women, both abroad and in the United States.
The author of over 20 books since he left office, Carter, who is scheduled to give a talk in Woolsey Hall this afternoon, has long been an advocate for human rights around the world. His most recent book, “A Call to Action,” focuses on injustices against women. Carter said he was inspired to write the book after seeing the oppression of women in many of the countries he visits.
“I began to see around the world that women and girls were treated quite despicably in some cases, sometimes with direct abuse and quite often with deprivation of equal rights,” Carter said.
Carter said this issue is not exclusive to foreign countries. Violence against women occurs in the United States, especially in the military and on college campuses, he said, specifying the University of Virginia sexual assault that was reported in Rolling Stone magazine as a recent example.
Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, who served as a chair on the Stanford Board of Judicial Affairs from 2011 to 2013, said that in her experience with Stanford cases, the failures of elite schools to successfully handle sexual assault cases stemmed from an incompetence of staff, a failure to understand and implement the Title IX law and a survivor-centered decision making policy.
“Elite schools, like other non-elite schools, have not dealt correctly with this issue,” Dauber said. “Many schools ignored Title IX for years until they were investigated.”
More broadly, Carter touched on the subjugation of women. He mentioned that in many poor families, boys are given better opportunities in school and in the workplace than girls. He added that the mutilation of female genitalia, mostly before the age of five, is a serious problem in many countries, most notably in Egypt, where he said 90 percent of all females have undergone this procedure. Carter went on to say that violence against women continues as women get older, with honor killings and forced marriages sometimes occurring around the ages of 15 and 16 in some regions of the world.
Religion is often tied to these incidents of violence against women, Carter said. The interaction between world religions and women is a large theme in his book.
“The misinterpretation of the holy scriptures by different major religions both in Christian areas and also in Islamic and Buddhist areas relegate women to a secondary position of importance,” Carter said.
To investigate the causes of this misinterpretation, Carter organized a conference where top religious leaders, both in the Christian and in the Islamic worlds, could share their basic beliefs concerning the relationship between men and women in the eyes of God.
Carter was an active and devout Southern Baptist until 2000, when Southern Baptist Convention leaders voted against the equality of women to men, reducing the power and participation of women in the church. Both he and his wife thereafter withdrew their affiliation with the Southern Baptist church. Carter recently urged Pope Francis, along with 200 world leaders, to address some of the problems outlined in his book. He felt optimistic about the Pope’s response, but did not expect to see any radical change in upcoming years.
“I think that women are going to be given more authority within the church in some councils,” Carter said. “But I don’t believe that it’s likely in the next 10 years for women to be ordained as priests.”
Carter said that the United States had failed to observe many parts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and urged college graduates without a clear career goal to join the Peace Corps.
Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work through The Carter Center.
Correction: Dec. 2
Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that former President Jimmy Carter’s talk will be held in Battell Chapel. In fact, the event will be in Woolsey Hall.