Recognizing that the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic “aggravates existing gender inequalities,” President Rodrigo Duterte has pushed for a “gender-responsive recovery plan” for 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 a safe and empowering space 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 noted that 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 noted a World Economic Forum report that showed 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 likewise 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 previously 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 respects women and does not tolerate discrimination of people.