The Abuse of Women and Girls – Jimmy Carter’s New Book, “A Call to Action,” Issues the Call

It’s Sunday. The “Christian Sabbath” it used to be called. A day to reflect on bigger issues. A day of rest from what we normally think about and pursue, to focus on other concerns.  Of course, it is a day of worship.  But it is also a day to think about other, deeper concerns.

The idea of the Sabbath Day is as ancient as they come. “Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy,” it reads in Exodus 20:8, as one of the Ten Commandments. The Christian faith does not observe the same day of the week as its Sabbath Day, but it has a rich history of honoring the Sabbath Principle.

It is a good principle. We are so consumed with the concerns of the immediate, the concerns of this week at work and in politics and…

Maybe we need to carve out some time to think about some “bigger issues.”

Here’s one. Why are there always so many people in power, with power, who use that power to keep down those without such power?

I present the key concepts of many books in synopses and briefings. I present briefings of business books. And I also present briefings of books that deal with issues of social justice and poverty. (I present these book briefings at the Urban Engagement Book Club in Dallas, sponsored by CitySquare).

So, here’s a book I’m currently reading. I’m pretty disturbed by it. It is written by former President Jimmy Carter. It begins this way:

All the elements in this book concerning prejudice, discrimination, war, violence, distorted interpretations of religious texts, physical and mental abuse, poverty, and disease fall disproportionately on women and girls.

He describes “systems of discrimination,” and states:

This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male religious leaders…

And then he states:

…many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status.

A Call to ActionThe name of this book is: A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power. It is definitely worth reading.

It does not take much reading of the news – national, international – to see this system at work.

In our country, rape and sexual abuse are vastly under-reported, under-investigated, and then obviously under-prosecuted. And the issue of equal pay, equal opportunity for women in the workplace is certainly an ongoing issue.

But internationally, the issue seems …overwhelming.

Just a few weeks ago, there were mass kidnappings of school girls in Nigeria. The world seemed to be “up in arms.” But the girls? – still missing. From Nicholas Kristof’s column this morning: Those Girls Haven’ t Been Brought Back:

It has been almost three months since Islamic militants in northern Nigeria attacked a school that was giving exams and kidnapped more than 250 girls — some of the brightest and most ambitious teenagers in the region.

Their captors have called them slaves and threatened to “sell them in the market.” The girls were last seen, looking terrified, in a video two months ago.

Here’s a gripping overall summary of this problem from back in 1995. This is from a speech given by Hillary Rodham Clinton: Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session delivered 5 September 1995, Beijing, China. (Text and video available at the indispensable American Rhetoric site, here). Here are, to me, the essential lines of her speech:

These abuses have continued because, for too long, the history of women has been a history of silence. Even today, there are those who are trying to silence our words. But the voices of this conference and of the women at Huairou must be heard loudly and clearly:

It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.

It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.

It is a violation of human rights when women are doused with gasoline, set on fire, and burned to death because their marriage dowries are deemed too small.

It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.

It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.

It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation.

It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will.

If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.

Today is Sunday. A day to reflect on bigger issues. The issue of the abuse of girls and women, in so many corners of our planet, seems to qualify as one of those bigger issues.

Thoughts for a Sunday…


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