Asia

Duterte: Outrage as Philippines leader describes sexually abusing maid

Rodrigo Duterte Image copyright AFP

There has been a wave of criticism after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said he sexually assaulted a maid when he was a teenager.

In a speech, he recalled confessing to a priest how he reached into the maid's underwear as she slept.

Women's rights group Gabriela said Mr Duterte was "unworthy of his position and should resign".

The Philippines president has sparked outrage with a number of provocative comments but remains popular.

In his latest remarks, he described entering the room of his maid while she was sleeping.

"I lifted the blanket... I tried to touch what was inside the panty," he said. "I was touching. She woke up so I left the room."

He said he told the priest that he later returned to the woman's room and tried to molest her again.

Mr Duterte said the priest told him to say "five Our Fathers, five Hail Mary's, because you will go to hell", according to news website Rappler.

It is common for well-off families in the Philippines to employ maids and many women also work as domestic helpers across Asia and the Middle East.

Mr Duterte's spokesman has since said that the president had merely "made up" and "added and spliced" the story during his speech on Saturday.

Rights groups in the Philippines have strongly condemned the comments, which were made as part of a tirade against the Catholic Church over the sexual abuse of children.

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Media caption‘Rape jokes are not OK,’ feminist punks tell Duterte

Gabriela, a political party representing women's rights groups, said the comments were tantamount to admitting rape.

"Rape does not happen only through penile insertion," the organisation's secretary general Joms Salvador said. "If it is a finger or an object it is considered rape."

The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific warned that the president's comments put domestic workers at risk.

"Flaunting abusive practices encourages the rape culture and in this case, sexual abuse of domestic workers," said executive director Jean Enriquez.

More than one million Filipinos work overseas as domestic workers, according to government figures.

Mr Duterte has been a fierce critic of the Catholic Church, which has criticised his bloody drug war that seen thousands of people killed.

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The Philippines president has drawn fire for previous actions and comments about women.

Earlier this year, he sparked criticism for kissing an overseas Filipina worker on the lips during a live event.

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Media captionMr Duterte has sparked controversy before

He also told Filipino soldiers they should shoot female communist rebels in the vagina.

In April 2016, he spoke to an election campaign rally about the 1989 murder and rape of a female Australian missionary in Davao, where he was mayor at the time.

"I was angry because she was raped," he said. "That's one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first, what a waste." His office later apologised.

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