Carter blasts clergy on women's rights

Former President Jimmy Carter, hosting a faith conference at his center in Atlanta. JAIME HENRY-WHITE / AP
Former President Jimmy Carter, hosting a faith conference at his center in Atlanta. JAIME HENRY-WHITE / AP

Religious leaders help perpetuate male power and female mistreatment, the former president said.

Posted: July 01, 2013

ATLANTA - Former President Jimmy Carter says religious leaders, including those in Christianity and Islam, share the blame for mistreatment of women across the world.

The human-rights activist said Friday that religious authorities have perpetuated misguided doctrines of male superiority, from the Catholic Church's forbidding women from becoming priests to some African cultures' mutilating the genitals of young girls.

Carter said the doctrines, which he described as theologically indefensible, contribute to a political, social, and economic structure where political leaders passively accept violence against women, a worldwide sex-slave trade, and inequality in the workplace and classroom.

"There is a great aversion among men leaders and some women leaders to admit that this is something that exists, that it's serious, and that it's troubling and should be addressed courageously," Carter said at an international conference on women and religion.

The 39th president is hosting representatives from 15 countries at the Carter Center, the human-rights organization he launched in 1982 after leaving the White House.

The Mobilizing Faith for Women event emphasizes to world leaders that religious institutions can be forces for equality, he said.

Nations represented at the Carter conference include Afghanistan, Botswana, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan. Carter mentioned widespread oppression in many of nations where iterations of Islam dominate, but also had criticism for the developed Western world where Christianity is the strongest cultural influence.

He noted that women in Saudi Arabia couldn't drive or vote. Girls in some cultures are forced to marry before they are 10 years old, and women in the United States, he said, are paid about 70 percent of what men earn for the same work. Across the world, he said, prosecutions for rape are either rare or too often become a referendum on the victim.

"The point is," Carter said, "that the voices demanding these circumstances change are few and far between."

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