DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 December) – At least a hundred Dabawenyo women called on fellow Dabawenyo, President Rodrigo Duterte, to “stop displaying misogyny and using sexist language” and instead “be a better example to other government officials and our Filipino men and boys” by following the letter and spirit of the country’s laws upholding and protecting women’s rights, especially the trailblazing Women Development Code of Davao City which he, as Mayor, signed into law on October 14, 1997.
“We ask the President, who is in the last 19 months of his term, what legacy do you want to leave behind concerning women?” the women asked in a statement titled “Stop The Verbal Abuse And All Forms Of Violence Against Women and Girls!”
Initiated by Konsyensya Dabaw and initially signed by 110 women based in Davao City or who hail from this city, the statement, released on Thursday, International Human Rights Day, noted that while many Dabawenyo women have taken a stand against the President’s sexist and mysogynistic remarks in various platforms before, they decided to “speak as one now as we join the rest of the world in commemorating the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women and International Human Rights Day.”
Among the signatories are educators, writers, non-government workers, lawyers, health practitioners, feminists, women’s rights advocates, peace workers, students, artists, entrepreneurs, government workers and environmentalists, including Norma Javellana, a Datu Bago awardee in 2018. The Datu Bago award is the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its citizens.
The women said they take pride in Davao City as the country’s first local government to pass a Gender and Development Code — the Women Development Code which then mayor Duterte signed into law in 1997.
The Code, which has served as a model and inspiration for other local governments, states that it is a city policy to “uphold the rights of women and the belief in their worth and dignity as human beings” and that women “shall be recognized as full and equal partners of men in development and nation building and men shall share equally with all forms of productive and reproductive activities.”
Section 8 of the Code lists as among forms of sexual harassment the “persistent telling of offensive joke such as green jokes or other analogous statements to someone who finds them offensiveness or humiliating,”
“We lament that the President has displayed misogynistic behavior and used sexist language repeatedly,” the women said, citing his rape joke about a foreign missionary during his campaign in 2016, his order to shoot the vagina of female members of the New People’s Army in 2018 and the recent trivialization of Vice President Leni Robredo’s disaster relief and recovery efforts.
“The State’s deplorable acts, specifically the continued persecution of women critical of the Duterte administration that have led to their imprisonment and even the death of an infant forcibly separated from her mother, follow and mirror the behavior and language,” the statement said.
The women said “normalizing” sexist language through jokes and insensitive remarks is detrimental as rape and other forms of gender-based violence (GBV) are increasing in many communities as women cope with the additional burdens of addressing the impacts of COVID-19.
The statement said cases of GBV in the city have increased this year and cited the case of a15-year old minor who was arrested last month for quarantine violation and allegedly raped by two barangay tanods. It said the United Nations Population Fund has also reported the pattern of increased GBV cases in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The women said they are alarmed that the gains of many years of advocacy on gender sensitivity and mainstreaming and women’s rights are being eroded “because the current government is failing to demonstrate leadership and good examples in instilling values that promote respect for women, decency, and civility.”
They echoed the statement of the Commission on Human Rights, the Gender Ombud, urging the government to fulfill its obligations, especially reminding the President and other high-ranking officials of their obligation not to perpetuate or tolerate violence against women, that “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.”
The women said the country is struggling under many challenges, that Davao City has, several times in the past few weeks, has been posting the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the country, that many parts of Mindanao still trying to recover from armed conflicts amid the pandemic and Luzon is still reeling from the super typhoons and massive flooding. “On top of these difficulties, the President’s blatant display of his low regard for women and what we contribute to uplifting communities is unconscionable.”
“We speak for ourselves and on behalf of those who will come after us, who, as today’s children, deserve better than to live in a culture of violence,” the women said and in Cebuano, called on fellow Dabawenyos to “show our shared recognition of and respect for women’s rights and dignity” and stop the verbal abuse against and disrespect for women and violations of women’s rights. (MindaNews)