Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told soldiers last week to shoot female rebels in their genitals, the latest in a series of violent, misogynistic remarks.
Addressing a group of former communist rebels on Wednesday, Duterte, who served as a city mayor before becoming president, appeared to encourage the 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,” Duterte 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 been defined by violence — and often violently misogynistic language.
Since he came to power on a promise to kill all the drug users and dealers in the country, 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, he 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,” Roque said.
According to the official transcript from the Wednesday event, the crowd did, in fact, laugh.
Duterte, who was elected president in 2016, has made headlines for “joking” about the rape of a kidnapped Australian and for telling troops to rape women in conflict. He often shares unsolicited opinions on the sexual attractiveness of 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 rights groups expressed 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,” a representative for Gabriela, a feminist organization, said 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 Duterte’s remarks “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.