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Onward, Women!

Our Collective Fight for Dignity and Equality

International Women’s Day is a global day to celebrate women empowerment and promote gender equality. In recent years, however, the many achievements of, and for women are getting repudiated as authoritarianism and “strongman” populism are on a steady rise in the different regions of the world. The politics of bigotry and misogyny being practiced by autocrats and demagogues in many countries – most notably the United States of America, Russia, Brazil, Hungary, Poland and the Philippines — is seriously chipping away the considerable gains in the global struggle towards fully empowering women and fostering gender balance.

In my country, President Rodrigo Duterte is waging a war against women. He has repeatedly threatened violence against us. In 2017, he informed Filipino soldiers, when he declared martial law in Mindanao, that they could each rape up to three (3) women with impunity. In 2018, he instructed the military to shoot female rebels in their vagina to render them “useless”. And even before these incidents, in August 2016, just two (2) months into his presidency, Duterte started vilifying me, tagging me as an “immoral woman”, and eventually causing my unjust arrest and detention for more than two (2) years now for opposing his bloody “war on drugs” and many other anti-human rights policies.

The hostility of these “strong men” towards female empowerment is obvious. They view women as a force that threaten their hold on power, in the same way that political opposition and human rights defenders are being seen as unnecessary checks on their undemocratic behavior and policies.

Hence, in our call for empowerment of women and equality of everyone all over the world, women leaders and human rights advocates should work together and earnestly with other activist groups, along with enlightened inter-government bodies and a number of progressive governments. This new political movement is what we need to confront and stop this authoritarian and populist resurgence. With will, determination and solidarity, we can still defeat the politics of hatred and the growing culture of intolerance and impunity in our midst.

Let us all come together in our common defense of human rights. Let us fight with renewed vigor for the dignity of women and equality of everyone. Let us work for a safer and more humane world for all of us. End misogyny and other attacks! Sulong, kababaihan! (Onward, women!)

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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