Former President Jimmy Carter stunned the Civil Rights Summit on Tuesday when he said that 100,000 young girls were sold into sexual slavery last year in the United States.
The 89-year-old Democrat also listed a series of abuses against women and girls both abroad and in America while speaking at the summit in the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum in Austin, Texas.
Carter said that parents had strangled or aborted 160 million infant girls or fetuses worldwide in recent decades because they wanted a boy, according to The Dallas Morning News
. And he decried the genital mutilation of young girls, which is happening every day in more than half of African countries.
In his interview with LBJ Library director Mark Updegrove, the former president said that women are being abused in the United States, as well.
"Slavery at this moment is greater than it ever was in the 19th century," he said, noting that "last year, there were 100,000 girls sold into sexual slavery" in America. "In this country, we’re not above self-reproach."
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The 39th president said that the United States should follow the lead of Sweden, which had nearly eliminated sexual slavery by prosecuting pimps and their male customers.
Carter, who has written a new book called "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,"
also denounced the growing problem of rape and sexual abuse on college campuses and in the military.
He urged President Barack Obama to stop federal funding for universities that fail to fully investigate and prosecute rape claims, and said that military commanders should not be allowed to decide whether sexual assault suspects should be investigated or prosecuted.
Carter called the abuse of women "a human rights abuse of the grossest character that needs to be addressed by every American. And we need to set an example for the rest of the world."
The three-day summit commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was supported by Johnson.
Carter is the first of four presidents
to speak at the summit. Obama will give the keynote address on Thursday, while Bill Clinton and George W. Bush are also set to attend.
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