MANILA — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday reminded President Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials who joked about sex and womanizing during a post-typhoon briefing in calamity-hit Camarines Sur that women objectification is a form of violence.
In a statement, CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said trivialization and normalization of sex jokes about women should not be tolerated nor excused, "especially as we are a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and we have laws" against these.
“The CHR condemns the… sexual objectification of women. They are forms of violence against women,” Gomez-Dumpit said.
"Sexist and misogynistic remarks are never right and should never be tolerated," she added.
At the post-typhoon briefing in Camarines Sur on Nov. 15, Duterte exchanged jokes about sex and womanizing with Social Welfare Undersecretary for Bicol Affairs Marvel Clavecilla, during which, other officials could be heard laughing.
"Let's not read anything beyond the fact na the President, more or less, wants to lighten the mood dahil buong araw, wala siyang nakita kundi disaster doon po sa Cagayan, at doon po sa Naga," Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said of Duterte's jokes when asked for comment on the following day.
(The whole day, he saw nothing but disaster in Cagayan and Naga.)
Pressed if that makes making jokes about women and and sex acceptable, Roque replied, "I’m not saying anything. I’m just saying, that’s the nature of the President. After seeing disaster for almost eight hours already, come on! ‘Di ba?"
Gomez-Dumpit said "dismissal of remarks that make light of women's sexual objectification and which justify the same as a 'means of coping' with stress sends the message that sexism in government is normal, and that government takes the issues of women and girls lightly."
"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.
The CHR official sought to remind Duterte 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."
"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.
Any form of violence against women (VAW) "should not be tolerated, nor excused, not when the nation 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 said.
“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.”
Gomez-Dumpit emphasized that the Magna Carta of Women obliges government to prevent all forms of violence against women.
ABS-CBN News sought for Roque's reaction to Gomez-Dumpit's statement and is still awaiting his response as of posting time.
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