Fury, anger, and outspoken protest were registered by a group of French women politicians in France demanding an end to the sexual harassment and sexism among male politicians and government officials which they themselves were subjected to.
They directed their sharp criticism at an enduring attitude and what could be described as male political entitlement to sexually harass female politicians and journalists.
A few weeks ago, they stood outside the French parliament with placards and megaphones and riot police on standby demanding a stop to the daily practice of male politicians- their colleagues- physically touching, groping, harassing them with sexist talk and in some cases, sexual assault by the male politicians.
But that is not all. Last 2015, a group of female journalists spoke out in public demanding the same respect for their status, dignity, and rights. Many have come out openly describing they were sexually assaulted by male colleagues.
At least 40 of the female journalists wrote an open letter to the Libération newspaper to protest the abuse and outrageous sexism of French officials and politicians who tell them, “It was just a joke.”
In 2011, French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn was charged in New York for allegedly sexually assaulting a hotel maid. After weeks of humiliating court appearances, the charges were dropped by out of court agreement.
Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn
The female politicians signed an open letter condemning the practice so prevalent as if it is a machismo right for males to behave in that way. In this day and age when we have recently celebrated International Women’s Day, this behavior in the presumably civilized and sophisticated French capital is truly outrageous. The abuse by male politicians of their positions of power challenges all of us to review our own attitudes and what values we hold regarding the respect for the dignity and rights of women in all of society.
We need to reflect and find an understanding of what is behind male domination besides crass ignorance and disregard for the dignity and rights of women. The first possible explanation is not reason, not rational, but it is desire and the demanding nature by some insecure and appetite-driven men to have sexual gratification whenever they want. The sexist remarks, touching and harassment is a foreplay and crude invitation for the female to cooperate and satisfy their desires.
When rebuffed child-like, they can resort to retaliatory measures and get what they want by assault and even rape. They tend to belittle and downgrade women as punishment for failing to gratify their appetites for sexual stimulation. The drive to gain political power may also be motivated by the same basic instinct to have domination over others and women in particular. It’s more animal instinct, it seems, than human rational that is at work in the abusive politicians.
Philippine Catholic Bishops and family life advocates were shocked and at disbelief when the presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of Davao City, that when he would be president it would cost the state nothing to maintain his three mistresses since he kept them in cheap boarding houses and took them to cheap hotels to have sex. That just gives the go signal and presidential approval to the Philippine male population “to do as I do.” It impact on an increase in broken families and abandoned children has yet to be seen.
His next contribution to the joke arena did not go down so well. Some think that he is the hope for women’s rights in the country, others abhor his disparaging attitude and remarks to women when he told a group of women rights advocates, “You go to hell!” after they filed charges against him in the Commission on Human Rights.
They did so after his remarks when he viewed the body of a murdered and raped Australian Missionary who died in a prison riot in Davao. “She was so beautiful, as mayor I wish I had been first,” he told a laughing crowd. But it was only a tasteless joke he said later and apologized under pressure.
The protesting Filipino women did not appreciate the joke. They wrote a letter to the commissioner on behalf of all members of their respective organizations. They said in the letter of complaint that “women (were) insulted, hocked and outraged” by the sexist joke of the mayor and that he was allegedly violating the Magna Carta of Women.
This attitude, they said in their letter, put “in peril the future of many children and young women who are potential victims of violence against women.” They also wrote: “What protection and redress would they expect in a society where men tolerate such violation?”
The Philippines and Southeast Asia is the target for the sex tourists the world over. The tolerance and cooperation of politicians are outrageous. They grant operating permits to thousands of joints, sex bars, massage parlors which are fronts for both child prostitution and human trafficking. Young women and children are forced into these establishments.
The politicians have the power to stop it but do not have the interest, respect, and political will to act against them. Instead, they foster and promote them. Again the sexist attitude of the male species dominates and exploits. That’s what they want and that is what they get no matter who suffers.
This we must oppose united and determined. Otherwise, there will never be true gender equality but together we can help change it.
Rev. Shay Cullen is a co-founder of PREDA: a nonprofit dedicated to defending the rights of children.