March 30, 2014 in Features

Carter’s ‘Call:’ Women’s rights are universal

Peter James Spielmann Associated Press
 

Book review • “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” (Simon and Schuster), by Jimmy Carter

In his new book, “A Call to Action,” former President and longtime Baptist church deacon Jimmy Carter says prejudice and discrimination against women and girls is perpetuated in America and around the world by religious authorities who twist holy texts to assert male dominance.

Carter famously broke with the mainstream Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, denouncing it for drifting into doctrines he called sexist and racist.

The 89-year-old Carter recalls how in his Deep South childhood the Bible was cited to justify white supremacy and asserts that patriarchs now twist the Bible, Koran and other Scriptures to denigrate and control women.

After assigning the cause of much of today’s discrimination to religious intolerance meant to preserve male dominance, Carter documents an array of effects.

In one of his shortest, but perhaps most chilling chapters, “The Genocide of Girls,” Carter notes that prenatal screening has enabled parents in patriarchal societies to “select” the sex of their children by preventing the birth of girls. Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize laureate from India, estimated in 1990 that more than 105 million female infants worldwide had been aborted or killed in a practice called “femicide” or “gendercide.” Carter says laws against the practice in China, India and South Korea are ineffective.

Carter admits that outsider groups like his Carter Center cannot parachute values in “without the support of the entire community, especially including traditional chiefs and other male leaders.”

But he cites hopeful efforts by a group the Carter Center has worked with called Tostan, which has made inroads against genital cutting and child marriage in Africa. And he writes that by bringing men into the discussion with women and enlisting fair-minded religious leaders, progress has been made against obstacles that had seemed insurmountable.

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