PH Commission on Women to political parties: Respect women
MANILA, Philippines — “The photos and video footages circulating online show how women were treated as sex objects,” the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) said on Friday, October 2, reacting to the “lewd dance performance" at a Liberal Party lawmaker's birthday celebration.
The PCW expressed “alarm and grave concern” over the incident, calling it at an act of of objectifying women’s bodies.
“Granting that it was not part of the party’s official function, we find it appalling that there were no reports of any action taken by LP leaders and members who were present in the event to stop the show,” the PCW said in a statement sent to Rappler.
The event involves Laguna 4th District Representative Benjamin Agarao who was reported to have been "gifted" with a performance by the female group “Playgirls” on his birthday, held in his home after an LP event on Thursday, October 1.
“The fact that Laguna’s 4th District Representative Benjamin Agarao was quoted saying that the dance number was ‘given by his friend as entertainment’ indicate how some political leaders look at women and their bodies as commodities that can be hired, traded, gifted, and treated for their entertainment and sexual pleasure,” it added
The government agency stressed its disappointment at how “traditional macho culture” still prevails in the Philippines, in spite of the fact that Filipino women are playing an important role in leadership, the economy, national development, among many other contributions.
Agarao told a radio station that he was masculine enough not to find the girls twerking onstage offensive. In response, the PCW stressed that “heterosexuality and masculinity should not be at the expense of women.”
The PCW lamented how some male political leaders find sexism trivial and justifiable.
Amid the controversy, the PCW acknowledged and praised Filipino men who advocate for gender equality and women empowerment such as the organzations MOVE Philippines (Men Opposed to Violence Against Women Everywhere), ERPAT (Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities), and KATROPA (Kalalakihang Tapat sa Responsibilidad at Obligasyon sa Pamilya).
The PCW called on political parties to observe and implement the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710, which protects women from all forms of discrimination and abuse. The law has been around since 2009, but several Filipinos may still be unknowingly violating women's rights for years.
Meanwhile, the PCW commended those who expressed their indignation over the incident. “Experience tells us that unified public outrage is powerful in compelling entities and individuals to act on issues or refrain from doing harmful acts,” it said, urging Filipinos to be more vigilant.
“Join us in calling aspiring national and local leaders that instead of campaign gimmicks that undervalue women’s dignity, they should present clear provisions on gender equality and the empowerment of all women in their platforms of governance,” the PCW continued.
LP leaders, led by administration standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II, had distanced themselves from the incident. They urged members not to resort to "gimmicks" that degrade and offend women, and said they would investigate their concerned members. – Rappler.com