Women Bear the Brunt of Calamities, Crude Jokes Have No Place in Disaster Management

During the 15 November 2020 situation briefing on the typhoons that devastated Luzon, President Rodrigo Duterte and senior public officials exchanged sexist banter.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque responded to criticisms regarding this matter by saying that Filipinos should just accept the president’s sexist jokes during a situation briefing on typhoon devastation in Luzon because it’s his way of coping with adversity (Rappler, 16 November 2020) and that Duterte was just channeling a Filipino trait to “lighten a problem” when he issued the jokes (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 November 2020).

The Center for Liberalism & Democracy (CLD) condemns the misogyny that took place at the highest levels of the executive department as well as the callousness and insensitivity of the palace response. Making light of a problem should not include crude jokes at the expense of women.

It also showed the uncaring and cavalier attitude of government towards a crisis and calamity when millions of Filipinos suffer from the rising death toll, floodwaters submerging entire communities, and massive loss of homes and livelihoods.

“Women bear the brunt of disasters,” Rowan Harvey, Women’s Rights Advocacy Advisor asserted. “It’s a sad truth that when conflict and disasters strike, their impact is shouldered by the poorest and most marginalised, and as 70 percent of the world’s poorest are female, it is women and girls that are most affected.”

According to Estelle Bloom of Womankind Worldwide,“ it is now recognised that humanitarian crises impact women and girls disproportionally. Research shows that women are 14 times more likely than men to die in a crisis.”

The exchange of crude banter between the president and other government leaders was like old men sitting around cheap liquor making sexist jokes about the women cooking for them and doing their laundry. It was an abomination that has no place in disaster management and risk reduction and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Misogyny exacerbates tragedy.