President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte kissed a married woman on stage at an event in South Korea earlier this month, prompting outrage from individuals from his country as well as abroad. The 73-year-old populist, who has been accused of inappropriate and crude behavior toward women in the past, was addressing a group of overseas Filipino workers when he called two women onto the stage.
In an uncomfortable video that has been circulating the internet, the President asks one of the women if they’re single. When she replies that she’s married, Duterte responds, “You’re not separated from him?” and goes on to say, “Can you tell him that this is just a joke?” before kissing the woman on the lips.
In front of a crowd of screaming supporters, it seems that the woman, identified by the state-run Philippine News Agency as Bea Kim, is flattered by the kiss and by the presence of the president. She later reported to the Philippine News Agency that “there wasn’t malice in it. For me, for him, it didn’t mean anything.”
The President is now under fire for what many see as a misogynistic and inappropriate assertion of power.
“It was a despicable display of sexism and grave abuse of authority,” Philippines senator Risa Hontiveros said in a statement. “Even if the act was consensual, it was the President, possessed of awesome, even intimidating power, who initiated it. It was not a meeting of two consenting individuals on equal terms.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Duterte has been labeled a misogynist. In February of 2018, when speaking of female rebels, the President made a statement that translated to “There’s a new order coming from Mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina, so that – if there is no vagina, [the woman] would be useless.”
Between saying that women who are not Filipino have a “queer” scent, to reacting to a deadly typhoon with the statement, “Lord, I hope only the ugly died. I hope the beautiful ones did not,” it’s clear that Duterte has little respect for women overall.
His recent antics involving kissing Bea Kim have sparked discussion online about consent and appropriate behavior. While some see the kiss as harmless, others are deeply offended and concerned by Duterte’s actions.
The kiss seemed consensual and Kim stated it as such; however, the question of respect looms over Duterte. As president of a country with over 106 million citizens, Duterte’s public statements and behavior are troubling for the entire international community.
While some have spoken out against Duterte, the fact remains that almost 40 percent of the population voted for him in the 2016 election. If misogynistic comments and actions are not addressed and punished, a message is being sent – a message that says that men in power are entitled to this behavior.
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