By MEGAN MILLER
Human trafficking, unequal pay, sexual assault. We have “a long way to go” in solving these issues, according to former President Jimmy Carter, who hopes his new book, “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” will prompt societal change in the way we approach these problems.
The book, which came out last week, addresses gender equality issues surrounding religion, violence and power both in the U.S. and worldwide.
“In the United States, we have terrible sexual abuse in the military [and] in all university campuses in America, and we have a very severe burden of slavery, also in America. Atlanta happens to be the worst trading center for girls to be sold into sexual slavery and we have lower pay for women than we do for men in America, by about 23 percent,” Carter said. “These are the things that go on all around the world and not many people pay attention to them or try to do something about it.”
Carter hopes the book will cast light on the need for a dramatic shift in societal attitudes towards women’s rights.
“I hope that people … [will] think, ‘Well this is something that I’m interested in because I want to protect the rights of my little daughters, protect the rights of my wife, protect the rights of my mother and not have men continue to treat them as inferior in the eyes of the law, or in the workplace or in the eyes of God.’”
Specifically referencing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, he notes that the U.S. has earned a very poor rating in terms of its adherence to the declaration’s 30 articles, including equal treatment of women.
“We never have done that well in this country,” Carter said. “On a basis of ranking of all other countries, we are 23rd. On the basis of women participating in local, state and national government, we are 78th in the world. And on a matter of equal pay for women, we are more than 60th down the list; there are 60 other countries that do better than we do in giving women equal pay.”
As for employers here in the U.S., Carter says Americans do not need the government to implement change in order for it to happen.
“They don’t have to wait until a law is passed to pay women equal pay, they can do it tomorrow if they decide to do so,” Carter said. “So these are the kinds of things that can be done immediately and in the long term even with or without mandatory laws.”
In addition to job and compensation inequalities, Carter has found several other unnerving issues regarding the treatment of women, including the number sold into sexual slavery — at least 100,000 in the U.S. last year, alone. As the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has posed a unique challenge in addressing the issue.
“A lot of our passengers come from the Third World’s poorest countries in the Southern Hemisphere and girls are cheap to buy if you’re a brothel owner or a pimp and you want to buy a girl to be in sexual slavery,” Carter said. “You can get a cheaper one in Atlanta, around the airport, than you can in most other places in America.”
The former president, who with his wife, Rosalynn, founded their namesake public policy organization in 1982, has long been committed to improving freedom and democracy worldwide.
“My belief and my hope is that the Carter Center can act as kind of a focal point for everybody, not only in this country, but in other nations, who want to take a stand and insist that publicity be brought to these problems and that the corrective action is taken,” Carter said. “And I am going to devote a good portion of my life, the rest of my years, to the same issue.”
Jasculca Terman, an independent strategic communications firm specializing in public affairs, event management, crisis communications and digital strategies, is the sponsor of this article.