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Duerte’s Patriarchy for Tea

3 September 2018 Posted by No Comment

3rd September 2018, Mount Lavinia

Philippine President Rodrigo Duerte’s comments about beautiful women getting raped as reported by the Washington Post brings into focus our global attitude toward rape. Duerte’s off the cuff remark, during a speech in his hometown of Davao, where he was once Mayor, was apparently a joke.

“They said there are many rape cases in Davao… As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.”

He went on to indicate that rape was a result of the lack of immediate consent by women.

“Who agrees to do it on the first request anyway? Will the woman allow it? No. ‘Don’t, no, ahhh.’ Nobody agrees to do it on the first try,” according to Rappler, a Phillipines-based news website. “Nobody agrees to do it on the first try. That is rape.”

This statement drew the requisite ire and condemnation from women groups and human rights activists, and his spokesman went on to justify the “joke” by stating there is more tolerance in the South of Philippines for rape humour.

“I don’t think we should give too much weight on what the president says by way of a joke,” Mr. Roque said, adding that residents of the southern Philippines tended to be less easily offended than their compatriots in the capital.

“They’re not O.K. with rape jokes,” Mr. Roque said, “but let’s just say that perhaps the standard of what is offensive and what is not offensive is more liberal in the south.” – New York Times

If Roque had made these comments with reference to the Global South, he would still be accurate. The Global North has set themselves up as a region that in general has little tolerance for rape related humour. This has been sometimes attacked as political correctness gone wrong, with comedians especially arguing that no joke should be off the table.

That said, rape jokes have long been identified as part of a more permissive rape culture.

“Rape culture includes jokes, TV, music, advertising, legal jargon, laws, words and imagery, that make violence against women and sexual coercion seem so normal that people believe that rape is inevitable. Rather than viewing the culture of rape as a problem to change, people in a rape culture think about the persistence of rape as “just the way things are.”

Last year bakamoono.lk reported on Civil Society organizations protesting Gang Rape in Vavuniya in November. There concern was a rise of such incidents in the North. We were probably one the few news platforms that picked up the story and interviewed organizers. There appeared to be no coverage of this in the mainstream media.

The grave crimes abstract of Sri Lanka police gives an overview of sexual violence in Sri Lanka, and our patriarchal approach is clearly exhibited in the collection and collation of data.

In 2017 there appear to have been a total of 526 rapes, this includes 294 cases of those over the age of 16 and 232 cases of those below 16. That is more than a rape a day in Sri Lanka. The police since 2015 have also disaggregated their data to include statutory rape with consent. While this reads like an oxymoron, the intention is to indicate those who have consensual sex under the legal age of 16. In 2017 there were 1206 cases of statutory rape WITH CONSENT. Given that law makers have detailed 16 as the age of consent for sex i.e. those below the age cannot be considered to give consent, this data set needs revisiting. It is yet another indicator however of how permissible our attitudes toward rape are in Sri Lanka.

Our asking for it culture that burdens the victim of rape for the cause of rape – she was drunk, she was wearing revealing clothes, she walked in a suggestive manner, she went out alone at night – is yet another example of why Duerte’s comments probably had many Sri Lankans nodding in assent, or giggling at his audacity to say what we’re thinking. Recently this writer was told by a man from Colombo that “a man from the village seeing a girl in a short skirt in Colombo is obviously going to make him jump on her. He’s not used to seeing sexy legs.”

The continued objectification of women and girls in Sri Lanka, with little repect for women and girls in terms of equal opportunity and possibility will continue to reinforce these patriarchal ideals. To change this we need to think long term, we need to think of education reform, we need to think about teaching our young people and children how best to treat each other in a relationship, based on respect for self, other and difference. This is our broken record, and we’ll keep playing it.

In the meantime, Sri Lankans will continue to love Duerte. Murderer of people who use drugs. Kisser of pretty girls on podiums. This extension of his thought process – as long as there are beautiful girls there will be rape- will only serve to further endear him to us.

Courtesy bakamoono.lk

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