In Brief

Rodrigo Duterte calls women ‘bitches’ at gender equality event

Philippines president rebukes audience of female police and military officers for criticising him

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called a group of female police and army officers “bitches” at an event intended to honour them.

In a speech on Monday, the leader addressed an almost exclusively female audience as “puta” (which translates as “bitch”) and complained that “crazy women” were depriving him of his freedom of expression after he was criticised for telling women to stay away from Catholic priests.  

“You criticise every sentence or word I say, but that is my freedom to express myself,” he said

However, the 72-year-old went on to say: “I love women. That’s why you see I have two wives.”

The president’s comments were met with light laughter at moments, though mainly silence, according to Hannah Ellis-Petersen, The Guardian’s south-east Asia correspondent.

The speech by Duterte “is just the latest in a series of comments relating to women which have drawn accusations of sexism and misogyny,” she says.

Last year, the leader directed his soldiers to target women rebel fighters by shooting them in the vagina. He has also previously joked about raping women, and pressured a married woman to kiss him on the lips at during a public event in South Korea last June.

The Gabriela alliance, a leftist Filipino organisation that advocates for women’s issues, has called Duterte a “misogynist president who feels entitled to demean, humiliate or disrespect women according to his whim”.

Duterte swept to victory in 2016 on a platform of hard-line authoritarianism, spearheaded by a policy encouraging the extrajudicial killing of people thought to be involved in the drug trade.

He has favourably compared his killing of criminals to Hitler’s murder of six million Jews, spoken in favour of death squads, and admitted live on TV that he had personally killed people.

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