President Jimmy Carter: ‘I Consider Myself a Feminist’

Steve Osunsami and Mary-Rose Abraham
President Jimmy Carter: ‘I Consider Myself a Feminist’

Since he left office in 1981, President Jimmy Carter has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, founded a nongovernmental center to address global public policy, and written 28 books. He considers his latest one – “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” -- “by far the most important book I’ve ever written in my life.”

The book addresses the human rights violations and horrific abuses against women and girls worldwide, including sexual trafficking, genital mutilation and child marriage. But abuses are not solely relegated to the developing world; they're rampant in the United States as well.

For example, President Carter said 100,000 girls are sold every year into bondage in the U.S., where a brothel owner can buy a girl – usually from Latin America or Africa -- for about $1,000. He also pointed to rape on college campuses, where only 1 out of 25 cases is reported. In addition, the well-publicized incidence of sexual abuse in the nation’s military stands in contrast to the rapists who are actually punished: only about 1 percent.

President Carter is careful not to single out any one country “as a villain. But I hold the U.S. most responsible because we have the potential for correcting our own mistakes and going to other countries in a very benevolent way and helping them to decide on their own initiative that they can correct some of the problems that exist.”

He does hold religion accountable, though. For example, he posed a logical question: if a husband or employer is religious and does not deem women as equal in the eyes of God, then why would they treat women equally in the house or at work?

“The misinterpretation of religious scriptures is the foundation of abuse against women and girls,” President Carter said.

After his presidency, the 89-year-old Democrat returned to his hometown of Plains, Georgia. But he travels the world on behalf of The Carter Center, the nongovernmental organization committed to resolving conflicts and preventing diseases. He and wife, Rosalynn, have visited dozens of countries where they have seen firsthand the abuses he writes about.

“Yes, of course I consider myself a feminist,” President Carter said. “If a feminist is someone who believes that women should not be persecuted and women should have equal rights, then all men ought to be feminists.”

ABC News' Jenna Harrison, Brian Fudge and Arthur Niemynski contributed to this episode.