WATCH: President Duterte gives an overseas Flipino worker a kiss on the lips during his meeting with the Filipino community in Seoul. | via Christina Mendez in South Korea pic.twitter.com/s61lVCCcMq— The Philippine Star (@PhilippineStar) June 3, 2018
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is known for being a misogynistic world leader.
He’s made crass jokes in the past about his soldiers being able to rape women with impunity. He’s suggested that having a second wife would be like having a spare tire. And, he openly flirts with his governmental subordinates who are women.
So, it might not be all that surprising to hear that, at a recent event in Seoul, South Korea, where he was honoring Filipino workers in the city, Duterte took the opportunity to kiss two women on stage during his speech. But while his behavior is not shocking, it still deserves condemnation.
Duterte invited two women to come on stage to get a copy of his book. He then hugged and kissed one of the women on the cheek. The second woman he signaled he wanted to kiss on the lips.
That woman was hesitant at first — she was married, she explained. But Duterte persisted.
“But can you tell him that this is just a joke,” he said.
Finally, that woman relented, and Duterte kissed her on the lips, as he had requested.
After the event, the second woman, whose name is Bea Kim, explained to the media that there was “no malice” in the kiss, and it was done to entertain. But certainly Kim had felt some pressure to accede to Duterte’s requests.
After all, his government has killed some 20,000 of his own citizens as he cracks down on drugs in the country. Duterte himself has bragged openly about killing someone as a teenager. Had the women refused Duterte’s advances, there was a real chance of retaliation from him.
A women’s rights group called Gabriela rightly condemned Duterte for his actions, calling them the “disgusting theatrics of a misogynist President who feels entitled to demean, humiliate, or disrespect women according to his whim.”
That group’s condemnation is precisely spot on. Duterte’s rampant sexism needs to be denounced by leaders from around the globe. It may have been that the women who accompanied him on stage this week were fine with him kissing them — but he’s not entitled to their affections, and his pressuring them to do so should not be seen as anything short of assault.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Dondi Tawatao/Reuters