Simon & Schuster, £18.99. Order at the discounted price of £14.99 inc. p&p from the Independent Bookshop

A Call to Action - Women, Religion, Violence, and Power by Jimmy Carter, book review: A radical attack on sexist society

Former US President Jimmy Carter condemns the culture of indifference among the Christian Right

The most remarkable fact in this book of shocking statistics about the disadvantages and abuses faced by women is that it was written by a white, American Southern Baptist man in his 90th year. Jimmy Carter was the president of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and his single term in office was overshadowed by the Iran hostage crisis, the energy crisis and the American boycott of the Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Even many Democrats in his home country regard him as a dangerously naive liberal and this 198-page volume, concluding with a 23-point Call to Action as promised in its title, will do nothing to alter that perception. That is to his credit.

Many of his concerns seem obvious yet his premise is radical. "Although economic disparity is a great and growing problem, I have become convinced that the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls," he writes. And he doesn't think that makes prostitution, female genital mutilation or the pay gap "women's issues". He is clear that they are problems for all.

To make his case, he draws on 30 years of work carried out by the Carter Center he set after leaving office to fight global disease, poverty and conflict. And he uses his experience of visiting 145 countries worldwide with his beloved wife Rosalynn and running projects in more than half of these to explain what is wrong – and what can be done. There are glimpses, too, of how a former president can use his influence for good if he so desires.

You can see why his reputation in the States is of being sanctimonious. But his wince-inducing description of how guinea worms grow and disable their human victims demonstrates that his moral indignation is perfectly proper.

And he is willing to expose America to damning comparisons, which perhaps explains why he has never enjoyed the domestic popularity of his Republican successor Ronald Reagan.

Nearly two-thirds of parliamentarians in Rwanda are women. Most Western countries have an average of 25 per cent, but it was 18 per cent in the 2012 US Congress. The United States is also at the bottom of the list of industrialised nations for maternal mortality rates.

And nowhere is he more condemnatory than in his exposure of the Christian Right in America for blocking progress.

Uganda, he points out, was making inroads in fighting HIV and Aids until conservative American Christian leaders persuaded its president's wife against the use of condoms. America is also a rare country, alongside Iran, Somalia and Sudan, in having refused to ratify the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – over abortion.

Faith is a major Carter concern and there are interesting sections examining why so many religions deny equality to women. He challenges the use of scripture to support gender disparity.

And while his belief in God appears unchallengeable, he and his wife resigned from the Southern Baptists, the world's largest Baptist denomination, after 70 years when new leaders promoted interpretations of the Bible including the requirement for wives to be "submissive" to their husbands.

This is not always an excitingly written book and a few statistics felt in need of closer probing.

But it is engagingly laced with riveting details of his own life, including a childhood in the Great Depression, raised in one of only two white families in a rural backwater where his friends were black, and of his wartime service in the Navy.

And the examples of the practical successes of the Carter Center are legion and contrast badly with the post-power activity of many world leaders.

Take the example of latrines. To help tackle the blinding trachoma spread by flies and affecting millions of the world's poor, the centre launched a programme that by the end of 2012 had seen 2.9 million loos built in Ethiopia.

"I am proud of my growing reputation as the world's most preeminent sponsor of latrines," he writes, with – surely – just a hint of a smile. And so he should be. The do-gooding peanut farmer from Georgia is a decent man.

Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?