Before we begin, let’s be clear on meaning. Here is the definition of rape:
“Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual penetration perpetrated against a person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or against a person who is incapable of giving valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, has an intellectual disability or is below the legal age of consent.”
Here is a definition of rape culture:
“Rape culture is a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these.”
Like millions of others, I was enraged and horrified by the video that recently surfaced showing Mayor Duterte trivializing rape and disrespecting an Australian woman who was raped and tortured before ultimately being murdered, all while trying to help people in our country. I was heartbroken by witnessing Duterte’s audience laughing when he said he wished he’d been the first to rape her. In the days since, the number of people making excuses for him has appalled me.
On Tuesday, Mayor Duterte’s daughter, Sara, came out with a statement that she had been a rape victim and she wasn’t offended by her father’s comments. My immediate reaction to her statement was to think, “Well good for you, Sara, I’m glad you’re not offended, but just because the statements didn’t bother you does not mean they won’t bother other survivors of rape.” Do you know what Mayor Duterte’s reaction to his daughter was? He publicly said that he didn’t believe her and he thought she was just trying to get attention. If this is how Duterte reacts to his own daughter, how do you think he will react to other Filipinas who report rape?
Rape is no laughing matter. There is no context or situation in which a joke about rape and laughing about the rape of someone is acceptable. Whether it was said from anger or not does not change the fact that it is still unacceptable. He has not apologized and media outlets around the world are reporting on his comments. Some are comparing him to US presidential candidate Donald Trump.
It’s not surprising that our patriarchal and macho society have resulted in a rape culture. Rapes are trivialized to the point that educated people I know “joke” that when someone looks disheveled, “mukha syang ni-rape!” (“She looks like she was raped!”) That someone aspiring to be the President of our country can trivialize rape and question the rape of his daughter so callously, yet still surge in popularity ratings shows the kind of society we have become. I do not want to live in a country where men feel emboldened to rape because their president encourages it.
The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines was shocked and angered by the rape “joke” as well and has called for Catholics not to vote for Mayor Duterte. Admittedly, with my work on reproductive health, I’m rarely on the same side as the CBCP. But I’m glad they’re taking the moral high ground on this issue.
Sadly, many Christian churches still support Mayor Duterte (despite the fact that God commanded us not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to blaspheme, etc). They say they support him because he will eradicate drugs and corruption. As much as I despise drugs and corruption, I don’t believe replacing them with death squads across the country while ignoring half the population’s safety is a good deal. Ironically drugs and corruption aren’t mentioned in the bible. Murder, rape, adultery and blasphemy are.
According to the Center for Women’s Resources (a research and training institution for women), in the Philippines, every 53 minutes, a woman or a child is raped, with seven in 10 victims of rape being children. Every 16 minutes, a woman is battered. These are disturbing statistics. These are numbers that a leader who claims to care about crime should care about. Sadly it is clear that he does not.
Rape is a serious issue. We need a leader who will take rape seriously, and who won’t “joke” about wanting to do it himself. We need a leader who will believe a woman or girl when she says she was raped. We need a leader who respects women. Mayor Duterte is not that leader.