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Duterte seeks more roles for women in Asean

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 6/27/2020 Catherine S. Valente, TMT
Rodrigo Duterte using a laptop © Provided by The Manila Times

RECOGNIZING that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic “aggravates existing gender inequalities,” President Rodrigo Duterte pushed for a “gender-responsive recovery plan” for the Southeast Asian region to “ensure more women’s active participation as we go into the new normal.”

Duterte made the pitch for women empowerment as he called on Southeast Asian nations to make cyberspace safe and empowering for women, saying any gender-based violence in the virtual world was wrong and abhorrent.

“We have to make cyberspace a safe place for women to connect, learn, and innovate,” Duterte said during the virtual session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) on women empowerment in the digital age on Friday.

“All forms of gender-based violence and abuse are abhorrent. They are wrong in the virtual world as they are in the real world,” he added.

The President said gender violence and abuse were “never the victim’s fault but that of the perpetrator alone.”

“Covid-19 only aggravates existing gender inequalities and adds urgency to efforts in women empowerment,” he stressed.

The President thus called for a “gender-responsive” recovery plan for the region, underscoring the need to “ensure more women’s active participation as we go into the new normal,” according to the Palace.

The regional bloc must also prioritize giving women control and access to digital technology, which, Duterte claimed, was an important tool for women empowerment.

The President also recognized that structures and practices in society have perpetuated the discrimination against and oppression of women.

“We must fully acknowledge these realities so we can unlearn them and tear down everything that has held back women and our societies for ages. This is a humbling realization,” Duterte said.

The special session was convened in celebration of the 25th anniversary of China’s Declaration and Platform for Action on women empowerment and gender equality adopted in Beijing in 1995.

Malacañang said several women leaders from the Asia Pacific also participated in the event.

These include New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Vietnam National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, and United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific Executive Secretary Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana.

In the same special Asean session, Duterte grabbed the opportunity to highlight the country’s progress in promoting the rights and welfare of women.

The President cited a World Economic Forum report that showed the Philippines has closed 78 percent of its overall gender gap.

“This year, the country ranks first in Asia and 16th globally in terms of gender parity in education, health, economy, and politics,” Malacañang said.

The President also cited several laws that sought to improve women’s access to health services, increase economic and political participation, and ensure their safety and security.

Among the enacted laws under Duterte’s watch are the Universal Health Care Act, the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Act, and the Organic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Duterte has been criticized by women’s groups for his alleged crass rape jokes and misogynist remarks in public events.

The President, however, defended his controversial comments, saying women were depriving him of his freedom of expression.

He also insisted that he respected women and did not tolerate discrimination of people.

In the Philippines, a spike in cases of violence against women and children was recorded during the imposition of lockdowns nationwide.

Duterte, in a previous report to Congress, said 1,945 cases of violence against women and 1,754 cases of violence against children were recorded by authorities from the start of the lockdown in mid-March until June 4.

The President affirmed his commitment to ensure the protection of women and children in his latest report to Congress.

He said police were coordinating with local government units to protect the rights of women and children amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Philippine Commission on Women is implementing its Violence Against Women Referral System that provides for a national mechanism for monitoring and reduction of gender-based violence, he added.

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