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Rodrigo Duterte has been condemned by women’s rights groups after the Philippine president joked about the number of rape case in the southern city of Davao.

At a public event on Thursday, Duterte suggested that the high number of rape cases recorded in Davao was due to the ‘many beautiful women’ in his home city.

“They say there are many rape cases in Davao,” Duterte said at the event in Cebu. “Well, for as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too.”

But the president’s comments would “help normalize rape” and threaten the status of women in the country, according to a Filipino women’s rights activist Elizabeth Angsioco.

“Duterte seems to hate women so much that he comes up with statements that help normalize rape,” Angiosco told Al Jazeera on Friday. “This is unacceptable. Not from anyone, especially not from the highest official of the land.

“Not only does he advance the idea that rape normally happens to beautiful women, he makes men believe that it is ok to rape. 

“For decades, Filipino feminists have worked for women’s rights to be respected, recognized and enshrined in our laws. We’ve had some success with the progressive pro-women laws. Duterte is destroying all our gains and that pushes us back to the dark ages.”

Throughout his presidency, Duterte has come out with crude and misogynistic content in his speeches.

In July 2017, Duterte suggested that he thought it would be acceptable for someone to rape the winner of Miss Universe, an international beauty pageant.

Earlier that year, while addressing a group of soldiers, he joked that men would be allowed to rape three women without punishment. 

In a statement issued on Friday, Gabriela, a Philippines women’s rights network, stressed that rape was a crime punishable under Filipino law.

“Yet again, President Duterte sends a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark, that a woman’s beauty is a cause of rape,” the organisation said in a statement.

“He toys with Davao pride and misogyny to gloss over a very important detail that women in his hometown of Davao City suffered the most number of rape cases in the country.

“This latest theatric only confirms one thing: President Duterte is proud to have rolled back whatever gains and legal mechanisms that have been instituted for women’s rights in Davao City.”

With additional reporting by Ted Regencia

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