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In a recent TED talk, former US president Jimmy Carter once again reiterated his message that crimes against women and girls are the biggest human rights abuse in our world today. Then he laid out what he believes is behind it.

The first reason, he says, is through the misinterpretation of religious writings by men in order to assure that women stay in a secondary position.

Prevalent in most religions, he cited the practice in his own church, which supported the subservient position of women by issuing an edict at their Southern Baptist Convention in 2000.

The edict, says Carter, “prevents women from being priests, pastors, deacons in the church, or chaplains in the military, and if a woman teaches a classroom in a Southern Baptist seminary, they cannot teach if a boy is in the room.”

The second reason is poverty and our tendency towards violence – poor people tend to suffer from abuse on a much larger scale, he says; all you have to do is look at the jails in the US, where there has been an 800 percent increase of the number of black women imprisoned since he left office in 1981.

The other reason Carter states is that “in general, men don’t give a damn. The average man, [who] might say ’I’m against the abuse of women and girls,’ quietly accepts the privileged position that we occupy.”

There are some things that concern Carter more than others. Here are the types of abuse against females that concern him the most: genital mutilation, which although is illegal in most countries, nevertheless still takes place – in Egypt 91 percent of women have been sexually mutilated he says; honor killings, a misinterpretation of the Quran, sees girls being murdered by her own male and female family members for the disgrace of getting raped, marrying a man her father does not approve of, or , sometimes, for wearing clothing deemed inappropriate; slavery (human trafficking) – 800 thousand people are sold into slavery every year, 80 percent are females sold into sexual slavery, Atlanta Georgia’s sex trade exceeds its drug trade; and the culture of rape including in developed societies, where serial rapists commit more than half the rapes on American university campuses (1 in 4 females will be sexually assaulted on US campuses before she graduates) because, Carter says, “when they get on a university campus, they can rape with impunity”.

“I can tell you without any equivocation,” says Carter, “that the number one abuse of human rights on Earth is, strangely not addressed quite often, the abuse of women and girls.”

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