Press Release
March 5, 2018


"Filipino women are facing a new and unparalleled outbreak of sexism under President Duterte."

This was the statement issued today by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros warning the public against a fresh outbreak of sexism under President Rodrigo Duterte reinforced by the Chief Executive's numerous anti-women statements. The Senator made the remarks two days before the observance of International Women's Day.

"Epidemic of sexism"

"We are witnessing an outbreak of sexism and misogyny under this two-year old administration. In all three branches of the government, we are seeing an epidemic of sexism that is state-sponsored, brazen and relentless," Hontiveros said.

"This fresh wave of sexism under President Duterte mocks and shames women in general, but it has profound disdain reserved for women in government who dare stand up against abuses," Hontiveros added.

Hontiveros, who is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Women, cited 23 instances (see attached list) where Duterte, as President, made remarks against women. This includes his threat to show Senator Leila De Lima's fake sex video, his statement reducing Vice President Leni Robredo to "a pair of nice knees", his rape joke in front of the military, and recently, his order to soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

"One sexist remark per month"

The Senator observed that Duterte is averaging one sexist remark per month. She said that this does not include the President's other unmonitored statements.

"The President's spin doctors would like the public to believe that his statements are harmless banter by a leader who simply loves to joke. They said that we should judge his actions and not his words. But language is a powerful medium where sexism, gender discrimination and even violence against women are committed and replicated," Hontiveros said.

"Duterte's words incited attacks against women"

The Senator also said that statements of heads of state have the force of policy, which translate into action by government and different social actors.

"President Duterte's sexist comments carry weight. They are not innocent words. His sexist pronouncements have set into motion vicious attacks against women, particularly those perceived to be critics of this administration. The Vice President became the victim of a nasty pregnancy rumor, Senator De Lima was slut-shamed in Congress and unjustly incarcerated, the Supreme Court Chief Justice and Ombudsman are both threatened with impeachment, students from St. Scholastica's College who joined rallies were harassed online, and I, myself, am being legally harassed by the Secretary of Justice," Hontiveros said.

"Similar to how President Duterte's words inspired and encouraged the wave of killings in the country, his anti-women statements have propelled unprecedented attacks against women. This sexism outbreak must be contained and stopped. All women need to say 'no' and push back." Hontiveros stressed.

A bill to change language habits

Hontiveros is pushing for the passage of Senate Bill No. 1326 or the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act of 2017. The measure aims to prohibit and penalize gender-based harassment in pubic spaces such as catcalling, wolf-whistling, cursing, leering, groping, persistent request for name and contact details, and the use of words tending to ridicule on the basis of actual or perceived sex, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity, including sexist, homophobic and transphobic slurs.

"Through this measure, we hope to progressively change the people's language habits, prevent different forms of gender-based harassment and convince the public of the positive effects of gender-sensitive expression," Hontiveros concluded.

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