CHR tells Duterte, gov’t officials: Sex jokes are never right, shouldn’t be tolerated

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CHR tells Duterte, gov’t officials: Sex jokes are never right, shouldn’t be tolerated

Gaea Katreena Cabico

( – November 24, 2020 – 6:04pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights condemned Tuesday the sex jokes made by President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials during a televised disaster briefing, stressing these remarks are forms of violence against women.

The CHR, as the country’s gender and development ombud, issued a stern reminder to Duterte and other state officials: sexist and misogynistic remarks are never right and should not be tolerated.

“We remind the president and other high ranking officials of their obligation not to perpetuate nor tolerate violence against women,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said.

Gomez-Dumpit stressed that Duterte’s exchange of sex jokes with government officials at a televised briefing about the impacts of Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco) comes as a “clear affront” to people, especially women, who are severely affected by recent typhoons and are faced with the burden of rebuilding their lives.

“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,” she said.

What Duterte said

Duterte is known for his long history of crude remarks about women, which, according to his spokespersons, were cast in jest.

In a publicly aired briefing on November 15, Duterte, referring to one local official quipped in Filipino: “He spent all his time [sleeping around with women], and he got old. Having too many women, that makes you old.”

He also joked that one man, who succumbed to coronavirus disease, “did not have enough women.”

Other government officials present at the briefing could be heard laughing. One official also joked that the Bicol region was “undersexed.”

CHR said pointed out that during the height of the disasters, a child was raped and was later found naked in Paluig, Zambales; a woman gave birth in an evacuation center; and many women and girls bear the brunt of disasters.

“Rather than the sexual objectification of women—seeing women’s only function is to serve men’s sexual pleasures—what should have been made visible in the briefing is the need for immediate and mainstreamed gendered responses and addressing the importance of protecting women and girls during and post disaster,” Gomez-Dumpit said.

Inconsistent with human rights obligations

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer, said the president’s latest controversial remarks were simply an attempt “to lighten the mood” as the country reels from back-to-back typhoons.

“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,” Gomez-Dumpit said.

“This is inconsistent with our human rights obligations,” she added.

In 2018, Duterte said he had ordered soldiers to shoot female communist guerrillas in the genitals and said he had sexually assaulted a maid when he was a teenager. The chief executive was also accused of abusing his authority after he publicly killed a woman at an event in South Korea.