MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) "strongly condemns" the recent sexist remarks by President Rodrigo Duterte involving "42 virgins."
“It is utterly degrading for Filipino women to be spoken of in such a manner, even as a joke, by the highest official of the land,” CHR said in a statement on Wednesday, January 31.
“The fact that it is done in a foreign context makes it even more appalling because it objectifies Filipino women in the larger international arena,” the commission added.
On Friday, January 26, Duterte joked that if Muslim extremists can lure followers with the promise of "42 virgins" in heaven, he would like to lure tourists to the Philippines with virgins as well.
"The come-on is that if you die a martyr, you go to heaven with 42 virgins waiting for you. If I could just make it a come-on also for those who’d like to go to my country," he said.
This is not the first time CHR has hit Duterte and cautioned against sexist remarks. He had previously talked about rape in previous speeches. (READ: CHR to Duterte: Be more considerate, stop rape jokes)
The country’s national human rights institution said that the “repeated sexist remarks” strip Filipino women of their rights and dignity, and reduces them to “mere sexual objects.”
“It diminishes women’s ownership of their bodies and reduces them to mere sexual objects,” CHR said. “This is despite the global recognition for our Filipinas’ capacity for hard work, who make honorable sacrifices to provide for their families and, at times, give due recognition to our country for their excellent achievements in diverse fields.”
Gov’t should uphold the law
As the highest duty-bearer, the commission now urges the President to lead the government in upholding to laws protecting women from violence and discrimination. These laws include the Magna Carta of Women and the Anti-Sexual Harassment Law, among others.
CHR also called on the public to stand up for women’s rights and to engage in proper discourse that will not diminish anyone’s dignity.
“We need exchanges that enrich the discourse on human rights promotion and protection—not degrade them,” CHR said.
“The vision should be to rise as a nation together and not at the expense of other fellow Filipinos and Filipinos,” it added.
Duterte, then president-elect, called CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon an “idiot" who was "nitpicking." – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.