Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last week told soldiers to shoot female rebels in their genitals, the latest in a series of violent, misogynistic remarks.
Addressing a group of former communist rebels on Feb. 7, Duterte, who served as a city mayor before becoming president, appeared to encourage Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to target women in conflict.
“Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,'” he said.
“If there is no vagina, it would be useless,” he continued, appearing to imply that women are useless without their genitals,” according to local media reports.
The Presidential Communications Office included the comment in the official transcript from the event, but replaced the word “vagina” with a dash.
Duterte’s presidency has thus far been defined by violence — and often violently misogynistic language.
Since he came to power on a promise to kill all the country’s drug users and dealers, thousands of Filipinos have been shot dead, prompting the international criminal court to open a preliminary examination.
Duterte regularly denigrates and threatens women, but when challenged, insists it was all just a joke. Just last week his spokesman, Harry Roque, accused women of “overreacting” to the president’s comments. “I mean, that’s funny. Come on. Just laugh,” he said.
According to the official transcript from the Feb. 7 event, the crowd did, in fact, laugh.
Duterte has made headlines for “joking” about the rape of a kidnapped Australian, lamenting he hadn’t been first, and for telling troops to rape women in conflict. He often shares his unsolicited opinions on the sexual attractiveness of various women, particularly female politicians who question his policies, in an apparent effort to demean, shame and silence them.
As Duterte’s translated remarks began to circulate over the weekend, feminist and human writes groups expressed their anger and dismay.
“Duterte (sic) latest nasty remark openly encourages violence against women, contributes to the impunity on such, and further confirms himself as the most dangerous macho-fascist in the government right now,” said a representative for Gabriela, a feminist organization, in a statement.
“He is pushing the fascist AFP to commit more bloody human rights violations and grave abuses of international humanitarian law, and takes state terrorism against women and the people to a whole new level.”
In a statement, Carlos Conde, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, called it “the latest in a series of misogynist, derogatory and demeaning statements he has made about women.”
“It encourages state forces to commit sexual violence during armed conflict, which is a violation of international humanitarian law,” the statement added.
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