MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Human Rights (CHR) slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s joke about making the “42 virgins” as a “come-on” to promote the tourism industry of the country, calling it as “utterly degrading” for Filipino women.
“These kinds of repeated sexist remarks strip Filipino women of their dignity and human rights. It diminishes women’s ownership of their bodies and reduces them to mere sexual objects,” CHR said in a statement.
On his visit to India last week, Duterte said that Islamic State extremists attract supporters through their promise of “virgins” waiting in heaven.
Duterte added that if only he can, he would do the same move to lure tourists.
“The come-on is that if you die a martyr, you go to heaven with 42 virgins waiting for you. If I could just make it a come-on also for those who’d like to go to my country,” the president said.
“And I said, one of the most is promising virgins when you go to heaven. I’d like to have the virgins here, not in heaven. God may not allow it,” he added in jest.
CHR said it is “even more appalling” that the joke was done overseas as it objectifies Filipino women even in the international setting.
The commission also stressed that women are already facing discrimination and violence even on online platforms.
“This usually stems from discussions on political and social issues that descend into misogynistic attacks and escalate into psychological violence such as online bashing, slut-shaming, and/or threats of rape and other physical violence,” it said.
CHR then urged the government to uphold laws protecting women and also encouraged the public to stand up for women’s rights against such abuses.
Among these laws are Women in Development and National Building Act, Magna Carta of Women, and Anti-Sexual Harassment Law.
“We need exchanges that enrich the discourse on human rights promotion and protection—not degrade them. The vision should be to rise as a nation together and not at the expense of other fellow Filipinos and Filipinas,” the CHR said.