MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to respond to the needs of women and children amid the recent typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of entertaining sexist jokes during a briefing.
According to CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit on Tuesday, sex jokes and the objectification of women should not be tolerated nor excused, as it undermines the push for gender equality especially if it comes from the country’s high ranking government officials.
“As Gender Ombud, we cannot let pass these sex jokes and sexist remarks without exercising our constitutional mandate to advise government in the fulfillment of its obligations. We remind the President and other high ranking officials of their obligation not to perpetuate nor tolerate violence against women,” Dumpit said in a statement.
“We remind them that as officials, instead of making jokes at the expense of women during a government briefing, they have to respond immediately to the gendered and intersectional needs of women facing multiple disasters. They have to send the message that they respect women’s human rights, including freedom from discrimination, in their disaster response,” she added.
Duterte and several officials, who joined his briefing on government response for the aftermath of Typhoon Ulysses and Super Typhoon Rolly, joked about how an official got old because of constant womanizing, before eventually saying that an acquaintance died because of the lack of it.
“Classmate kami. Classmate ko ito sa law school. Brod ko pa. Pero naubos ang panahon niya sa ano. Medyo tumanda na. Nakakatanda talaga yan. Sobrang babae? Nakakatanda yan,” the President said.
In reply, the local official said that he was actually “undersexed” — supposedly according to Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.
“[CHR] condemns the normalization and trivialization of sex jokes and sexual objectification of women. They are forms of violence against women (VAW) and should not be tolerated nor excused. Not when the country is reeling from a national emergency, not in November, when we are observing the 18 days of activism against VAW, and especially not coming from high ranking government officials during an emergency response briefing,” she stressed.
“As Gender Ombud, the Commission once again reminds the President and other high ranking officials present during the briefing that the State is not only obliged to protect women from discrimination and violence, it is also obliged to ensure that officials do not perpetuate such violence. It is obligated to ensure accountability,” she added.
Dumpit also took offense to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s remark that the jokes were Duterte’s way to lighten the mood, or as a coping mechanism as the country is facing a massive problem after another.
“Dismissal of remarks that make light of women’s sexual objectification and which justify the same as a ‘means of coping’ with stress send the message that sexism in government is normal and that government take the issues of women and girls lightly. This is inconsistent with our human rights obligations,” Dumpit reminded.
This is not the first time Duterte was scolded for making sexist remarks. A self-confessed womanizer, Duterte once told a story about how he made sexual advances on their maid who was sleeping.
He also drew flak for saying that he — as then Davao City mayor — should have been “first” to get to an Australian nun who was hostaged and gang raped by inmates from the Davao City Police Office.
Duterte was also reminded by CHR that even during the height of the typhoons, women still continue to suffer from misogynistic attacks, and were placed at risk of violence and abuse.
“At a time when many women and girls are severely affected by the recent typhoon Ulysses, when many are vulnerable and at risk of violence due to displacement, when many are faced with the multiple burden of rebuilding houses and lives post-disaster, the President’s jokes and side remarks come as a clear affront,” she said.
“We remind the President that during the height of the typhoon a girl child was raped and was later found half naked, bleeding and unconscious on a vacant lot in Paluig, Zambales; a woman gave birth in an evacuation center; and many women and girls had to deal with the impact of the disaster,” she added.
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