Migrant Group Decries Duterte’s Admission of Abusing Domestic Worker

The Center for Migrant Advocacy denounces the public admission of President Duterte that as a teenager, he sexually abused their family’s “maid”[1]. This is not the first time the President has made remarks that harmed the dignity of women. We, the Center for Migrant Advocacy, strongly believe that such stories–made to sound like a “laughable anecdote”–undermine the seriousness of sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence which are real threats to women domestic workers. Sexual abuse is not and should not be taken as a laughing matter.The Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710 mandates the State, as the primary duty-bearer, to “refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights; protect women against discrimination and from violation of their rights by private corporations, entities, and individuals; and promote and fulfil the rights of women in all spheres, including their rights to substantive equality and non-discrimination.” Statements made by the President create the impression that sexual abuse is normal, inevitable and it is futile to work against its elimination. To perpetuate this thinking harms survivors of sexual abuse and women in general and domestic workers, including those abroad, in particular, prevents them from exposing such experiences and ultimately diminishes the chances of achieving justice that is rightfully theirs. An estimated 722,750 Filipino women abroad engaged in elementary occupations[2], largely domestic work, face real threats of sexual abuse daily. To speak lightly of sexual abuse as if it is a joke is a blatant disregard of their rights as women, and their situation of vulnerability as domestic workers.Domestic work is one of the most vulnerable sectors in the world of work because it is largely unregulated, informal, undervalued, underpaid, is in the confines of the homes which are considered ‘private spaces’ of families, is outside the ambit of protection under the labor and social laws of many countries, and is largely a woman’s work. It is thus important to make sure that these vulnerabilities and risks that domestic workers face are not trivialized and are given serious attention.We call on the President and his administration to be mindful of the consequences of statements that perpetuate victim-blaming and misogyny. As the highest elected official in the country, he must take the lead in protecting and promoting an environment where women’s human rights are respected, promoted and fulfilled. We also call for an end to sexism and all forms of violence against women. Finally, as a State Party to the ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers, we must stop using any other term to refer to them. They are workers, just like you and me. They are domestic workers. [1] “Duterte ‘confesses’ He Molested Their Maid as a Teen.” Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/inside-track/219935-duterte-teen-molested-maid?fbclid=IwAR2K3gnGEcn3UGUBVOw–scmKPKUqIDErsq82vASS1UlhpT_xZ5i1JN-jJ4. [2] PSA, 2017.