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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Sexual objectification and sex jokes of women are VAW

THE Commission on Human Rights condemns the normalization and trivialization of sex jokes and sexual objectification of women. They are forms of violence against women (VAW) and should not be tolerated nor excused. Not when the country 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.

Sexist and misogynistic remarks are never right and should never be tolerated, especially as we are a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and we have laws that oblige the government to prevent all forms of violence (The Magna Carta of Women), and a law that penalize sexist and misogynistic remarks/slurs (Safe Spaces Law).

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. It is obligated to ensure accountability.

Dismissal of remarks that make light of women’s sexual objectification and which justify the same as a ‘means of coping’ with stress send the message that sexism in government is normal and that government take the issues of women and girls lightly. This is inconsistent with our human rights obligations.

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. We remind the President 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—often left to source water, food, and care for children, the ill and the elderly. 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.

As Gender Ombud, we cannot let pass these sex jokes and sexist remarks without exercising our constitutional mandate to advise the government in the fulfillment of its obligations.

We remind the President and other high ranking officials of their obligation not to perpetuate nor tolerate violence against women. We remind them that as officials, instead of making jokes at the expense of women during a government briefing, they have to respond immediately to the gendered and intersectional needs of women facing multiple disasters. They have to send the message that they respect women’s human rights, including freedom from discrimination, in their disaster response. They have to have zero tolerance for violence and should not be perpetuators themselves.

Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit
Gender Ombudsman
Commission on Human Rights

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