Former President Jimmy Carter said that although much progress has been made on human rights in the United States and around the world, much still needs to be done.
Speaking to LBJ Presidential Library Director Mark Updegrove at the Civil Rights Summit, the 39th president said women’s issues – including wage disparity, sexual abuse, sexual slavery – and racial inequality are issues that still need addressing.
Asked if the country has progressed on race issues as much as he would’ve hoped in the years since he’s been president, Carter was blunt.
“No,” he said. “We still have gross disparity on employment, in quality of education, a good many public schools in the South are still segregated.”
He also spoke at length about women’s issues around the world, including the number of girls strangled at birth by parents seeking boys.
“We believe about 40 million people were killed in Second World War. Four times as many baby girls have been killed in this generation by their parents,” he said. That creates a shortage of girls that leads to an increase in sexual slavery, including in the United States.
“Slavery at this moment is greater than it ever was in the 19th century,” Carter said, quoting state department numbers. “Last year 800,000 people were sold across international borders, 80 percent are young girls. It’s the worst human rights violation on Earth.”
In the United States, the problem is glossed over at universities and in the military by officials and commanding officers who don’t want their reputations besmirched, Carter said.
“Only 4 percent of rapes on college campuses are ever reported to authorities,” Carter said. He also quoted a report that said only 300 of the 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military last year resulted in punishment.
Carter also said American women get paid 23 percent less than men for doing the same type of jobs and working the same number of hours as men.
“This is a human rights abuse of the grossest character that needs to be addressed by every American, and we need to set an example for the rest of the world,” he said, drawing applause from the crowd.
To combat these problems, Carter said federal funds should be withheld from colleges whose administrators fail to act on sexual assault cases, commanding officers should be removed of any role in bringing forward rape charges, and cities should begin prosecuting brothel owners, pimps and male customers instead of girls.
“You only have to arrest several prominent men and the situation would change overnight,” he said.
Carter said his greatest concern for America is the unlimited amount of money flowing into campaigns and governments. His greatest concern for the world is the “breakdown in international harmony and the abilities of countries to get together to deal with crises before they get to conflict stage.”
He also gave a message to young people in the audience who might be looking for ways to create positive change. Citing his presidential inauguration, in which he quoted a high school teacher, Carter said, “We must accommodate changing times but cling to principles that never change.”
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