Duterte rape remark 'normalizes' rape culture: rights group


A women's rights group expressed alarm over Davao City Mayor and presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte's remarks on the rape-slay of an Australian missionary, saying it normalizes rape culture.

Jean Enriquez, executive director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific, said Duterte's remarks can have a huge effect on the public because of his position as a public official and solid following.

"For us who have been working on the issue of sexual violence, including rape, for decades, it really pushes back what we have been doing for a long time—that is, educating the public on the problem with rape, the problem of normalizing it, the problem of creating a rape culture which downplays the harms that rape does to women," she said.

She shared that several sexual violence survivors became "very emotional" after hearing the mayor's remark. Some of the sexual violence survivors said the language used by Duterte is similar to how pimps would talk to their victims.

"A lot of them broke down because they have been working hard to heal themselves and then they would hear someone of authority downplay rape," she said.

"Ganyan magsalita yung mga bugaw sa kanila: na dapat sila muna ang mauna bago sila gamitin ng mga customers."

"This continuum of sexual violence is also being normalized," she added.

Not only did the mayor's remark hurt women, but Enriquez said this is also insulting to men and the poor by generalizing that it's "gutter language" that is common among men and those who grew up in slum areas.

"This does not define men. This does not define poor people. That’s also terribly insulting for poor people to say that a certain language could be attributable to them," she said.

She said men should be "revolted by his statement."

A viral video earlier showed Duterte, 71, telling supporters he was angry that a "beautiful" woman had been murdered. He said inmates had lined up to rape her and it was a "waste" because as mayor, he should have been first.

Duterte later apologized to the Filipino people but said the statement was made in the heat of anger.

"I'm sorry in general because I can't say sorry to a particular entity or person. I'm sorry to the Filipino people, it's my style, it's my mouth, I said it in anger - listen to the story behind it," he said.

"It was not a joke, I said it in a narrative. I was not smiling, I was just talking plain sense narrative because I know when I talk about that particular episode in my life, people might say I changed something, that's why I kept the womanising, I'm letting it all out,' he added.


Meanwhile, Enriquez said she is disturbed by how some of Duterte's supporters are defending the mayor's remarks.

"Blind loyalty is, I believe, pushing supporters to find all sorts of justification for what he says or what he does."

Some loyal supporters have said that the mayor gave this statement at the heat of anger and not lust. Enriquez, however, said: "No anger, no culture, no context can justify a statement—I might not even call it a joke anymore because that trivializes it—that one should go first before others."

With the election season at a high, she added that this "doesn’t help our people."

"Elections are supposed to be looking after the interest of our people in general. This is not just about individual choices. It is about time that we look at this exercise as about the interest of the collective, of the people—and that includes us women."