Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was criticised on Monday for kissing a Filipino woman on her lips during an official visit to South Korea, Reuters reported. Duterte, known for making controversial statements, dismissed the kiss as a “gimmick”.
Duterte had reportedly asked the woman for a kiss in exchange for a book he was handing out at an event in Seoul. “Do not take it seriously,” Duterte was quoted telling the gathering. It is just for fun.”
State-run Philippine News Agency posted a video of the woman Duterte kissed. “There was not malice in it,” the woman identified as Bea Kim said. “For me, for him, it did not mean anything.”
His critics described his actions as misogynistic and “perverted way” to taunt those critical of his actions. Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said that the kiss, despite being consensual, was a “grave abuse of authority”. Gabriela Women’s Party Secretary-General Joms Salvador said: “You do not have to kiss a woman if you want to entertain people.”
Recently, women’s rights advocates had launched an online #BabaeAko (I Am A Woman) campaign to protest against Duterte’s sexist comments. The president is known for making comments that objectify women or normalise rape. In June 2017, he had joked about congratulating anyone who had the courage to rape the Miss Universe. In May 2017, he had told some soldiers that they could rape up to three women. In June 2016, he had wolf-whistled at a journalist on live TV. He had also described a woman who was raped and killed in 1989 as “beautiful”, and said that he should have been her first.
The incident follows Duterte’s objection to a United Nations human rights official’s criticism of the dismissal of the country’s chief justice, Reuters reported. The rights expert “can go to hell”, he had said.