Feminists mark International Women’s Day by decrying Duterte’s sexist remarks

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By Daniel Llanto
FilAm Star Correspondent

Women’s groups observed International Women’s Day last, March 8 by lambasting President Duterte for sexist remarks and his penchant for downgrading women in general. The tone was set by Sen. Risa Hontiveros who cried that Filipino women are facing a “new and unparalleled” spate of sexism under the Duterte administration.

“We are witnessing an outbreak of sexism and misogyny under this two-year-old administration. In all three branches of the government, we are seeing an epidemic of sexism that is state-sponsored, brazen and relentless,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

“Duterte’s latest nasty remark openly encourages violence against women, contributes to the impunity on such, and further presented himself as the epitome of misogyny and fascism terribly rolled in one,” Gabriela party-list Rep. Emmi de Jesus said.

Hontiveros noted that Duterte — whom she said seems to deliver an average of one sexist comment a month — has a “profound disdain” for women in government who stand up against his rule.

Hontiveros cited the instances where the chief executive threatened to show Sen. Leila de Lima’s alleged sex video (a video that the President, the Justice Secretary, and House leaders claim to have watched), remarked on Vice-president Leni Robredo’s legs and “sarcastically” ordered soldiers to shoot female New People’s Army rebels in the vagina.

The chair of the Senate committee on women said Duterte’s remarks have incited attacks against women, particularly on those perceived to be critics of the administration.

“The Vice-president became the victim of a nasty pregnancy rumor, Sen. De Lima was slut-shamed in Congress and unjustly incarcerated, the Supreme Court chief justice and (the) ombudsman are both threatened with impeachment, students from St. Scholastica’s College who joined rallies were harassed on-line, and I, myself, am being legally harassed by the Secretary of Justice,” Hontiveros said.

Duterte’s officials and supporters usually dismiss such comments as instances of “sarcasm” or part of the President’s supposed Bisaya humor.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, who as party-list congressman previously joined in asking about intimate details of De Lima’s relationship with her former driver during a House hearing in 2016, has denied that Duterte encourages attacks against women. He has also said feminists sometimes overreact to the President’s statements and “should just laugh.”

Hontiveros said the President’s “spin doctors” would like the public to believe that his statements are harmless banter by a leader who simply loves to joke. “They said that we should judge his actions and not his words. But language is a powerful medium where sexism, gender discrimination and even violence against women are committed and replicated,” the lady senator said.

She added: “This sexism outbreak must be contained and stopped. All women need to say ‘no’ and push back.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) earlier denounced President Rodrigo Duterte’s “joke” order for soldiers to shoot female New People’s Army rebels in the vagina. HRW said Duterte’s remark was the latest “in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women.”

The human rights watchdog said the comment “encourages state forces to commit sexual violence during armed conflict, which is a violation of international humanitarian law.”

According to a Presidential Communications Operations Office transcription and translation of Duterte’s comments in Bisaya, the President said: “Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina so that… If there are no vagina it would be useless.”

Speaking to more than 200 former rebels in Malacañang on February 7, Duterte asked why women join the NPA movement “even if you have your family.”

The President, who has been criticized for casually talking about rape, then ordered government troops to shoot their vagina, saying it would be useless.

Individuals and groups both at home and abroad have previously blasted Duterte for his remarks which they said “normalized” and “encouraged” objectification, rape and other forms of violence toward women.

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