BANGKOK, Thailand – The United Nations special rapporteur on ending violence against women is calling on the Philippine government to protect Filipino women in politics against verbal attacks coming from high-level politicians.
Dubravka Šimonović, in a press conference here Tuesday morning, invoked the country’s obligations under international law, when asked about the plight of several Filipinas in politics who have been receiving degrading statements from no less than President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials.
“Under international obligations, all persons in their respective roles should be protected against such types of verbal abuse and attacks that are coming with respect to their specific role,” she said.
Among these women is opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, who spent her 1,000th day in detention on drug charges last week. The President again linked De Lima to a supposed sex video last week.
On Sunday, Duterte fired Vice President Leni Robredo as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs, accusing her of “grandstanding.” Days before, he said he could not trust her with classified information on the drug war and called her a “scatterbrain” with “kneejerk” impulses.
Without specifically referring to any particular case, Šimonović said her office is using the communication procedure where they request a particular government to examine a specific case and send them specific information.
A confidential procedure at first, the results would later on be made public. She stressed the importance of documenting these cases as they might show trends or patterns in the long run.
Šimonović said that as more and more women around the world occupy positions of power and there is progress in terms of higher political participation of women, these are met by abuse, harassment and violence against women in politics.
“They are attacked by those that would like to silence them and push them back out of high-level political spaces. And it is another challenge,” she said, referencing a report on violence against women in politics released in August last year.
The report documented manifestations of violence against women in parliaments and in elections in some countries, although the Philippines was not mentioned.
These cases of violence could come in the form of psychological violence coming from the public and fellow-parliamentarians; threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction; and sexist remarks or behavior from male colleagues, the report claimed citing a study conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Despite this, Šimonović in her report said there were no internal mechanisms within parliaments for combating sexual harassment.
“For this reason, jointly with UN Women and regional mechanisms, I have also worked on the report in which we have sent clear messages to government that they need to establish good procedures at the national level to protect women against these type of verbal abuse, harassment and violence with the establishment of specific procedures with level of parliaments, at level of institutions in which they are exposed to such form of violence against women,” she said Tuesday.
UNITED NATIONS AND DUTERTE
Šimonović was careful to say she could not address very specific issues per country but pointed out that there are UN special rapporteurs who also went through similar attacks.
She didn’t mention any names but among the rapporteurs she referred to was Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who Duterte and his allies had heavily criticized for her remarks over the thousands of alleged extrajudicial killings in connection with the President’s war on drugs.
The Philippine President also figured in several spats with UN officials like former UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.
In a statement Monday on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Duterte said he hopes “we can all raise greater public awareness on the issues faced by this sector so we may pursue other measures that will protect them from any form of harassment or discrimination.”
Šimonović is in Bangkok for the Asia Pacific Regional Review of the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a resolution adopted in 1995. The resolution is recognized as a landmark global framework for the advancement of women’s and girls’ rights.
The review will start Wednesday and runs until Friday where ministers from more than 20 countries and delegates from a dozen more are expected to attend. The Philippine delegation will be headed by the Philippine Commission on Women.
Some 230 civil society organizations including human rights defenders and grassroots activists have also met for several days at the UN Conference Center in Bangkok ahead of the regional review.
In a press statement, they said that while some significant achievements have been made, there are still barriers to achieving the commitments such as the lack of implementation and accountability and increasing attacks by patriarchal authoritarian governments on environmental, women and human rights defenders.
DE LIMA ON MISOGYNY
For her part, De Lima called for a pushback against the “misogyny of those in positions of power.”
“What do we do when no less than the man occupying the highest post in the land promotes rape culture through his misogynistic statements and his sexual harassment of women in public?,” she asked in a statement, referring to the President's earlier jokes.
“What do we do when this attitude emboldens others to blame women for the sexual violence, harassment or rape inflicted upon them, while the perpetrators of the crimes are held blameless and walk away scot-free?” she added.