The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) expresses alarm and grave concern over featuring women doing lewd dance performance on stage in an event attended by members of the Liberal Party (LP) in Laguna. Reports and online photos and videos of the incident have been circulating online since October 1, 2015.
While the personalities involved reasoned out that it was not part of the official function of LP, we cannot discount that the dance performance itself is an act of objectifying women’s bodies. Granting that it was not part of the party’s official function, we find it appalling that there were no reports of any action taken by LP leaders and members who were present in the event to stop the show.
Commodifying and treating women as sex objects
We note with regret that the photos and video footages circulating online show how women were treated as sex objects. The fact that Laguna’s 4th District Representative Benjamin Agarao was quoted saying that the dance number was “given by his friend as entertainment” indicate how some political leaders look at women and their bodies as commodities that can be hired, traded, gifted and treated for their entertainment and sexual pleasure.
We lament that even in these days when women are making their way into leadership posts and proving their contribution to the economy and overall national development, the traditional macho culture is still present, even among national and local leaders.
Hetero-sexuality and Masculinity should not be at the expense of women
We are also alarmed that Rep. Agarao was quoted saying that as a hetero sexual, he saw nothing wrong with celebrating his birthday with such lewd dance performance, even using their “different culture” to justify that there was no malice in the said act.
It is a major drawback that while we have men of quality who actively support and advocate for gender equality and the empowerment of women in different parts of the country like MOVE Philippines (Men Opposed to Violence Against Women Everywhere), ERPAT (Empowerment and Reaffirmation of Paternal Abilities) and KATROPA (Kalalakihang Tapat sa Responsibilidad at Obligasyon sa Pamilya), members of which come from government, private and community organizations, there are still male political leaders who make women’s degradation trivial and justifiable. We support the cause of these male organizations to continuously challenge the gender-stereotyped concept of masculinity or macho culture as characterized among others by aggressiveness, homophobia and being highly sexual with women. We hope that our male political leaders step-up and join the ranks of these men who value and respect the dignity of every person.
Call for political parties: implement the Magna Carta of Women
We have made efforts in urging both public and private sector stakeholders to exercise sensitivity and refrain from discriminatory, demeaning and derogatory portrayal of women in advertisements, shows and programs, pursuant to Section 19 of the Magna Carta of Women. While this is still a work in progress, we have seen positive moves from government and private sector, as they opened their doors to constructive dialogues and better self-regulatory measures to refrain from committing exploitation of women.
We hope that all political parties, including independent candidates will take cue from these initiatives, especially in light of the coming campaign period for the 2016 elections. Refrain from using women’s bodies as forms of “entertainment” in campaign sorties and other events; instead, make your platforms known to the public.
We also urge all political parties to ensure genuine and equitable participation of women in their leadership hierarchy, internal policy making structures, appointive and electoral nominating processes, as mandated under Section 11 of the Magna Carta of Women. Women’s participation and representation does not end with having women in political organizations; it entails opening our eyes to the needs, aspirations, issues and concerns of women, and taking concrete steps to realize and address such.
Call for continued public vigilance
Finally, we commend the women and men from different sectors who publicly expressed their indignation over the said incident. Experience tells us that unified public outrage is powerful in compelling entities and individuals to act on issues or refrain from doing harmful acts.
Let us continue to be vigilant and use various forms of media to express our concern on issues that need to be addressed. Join us in calling aspiring national and local leaders that instead of campaign gimmicks that undervalue women’s dignity, they should present clear provisions on gender equality and the empowerment of all women in their platforms of governance. #