Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has come under fire for discouraging people from using condoms, labelling them ‘not pleasurable’.
Duterte was addressing a crowd of returned Filipino migrant workers when he started talking about the country’s population boom. It was at this point he made the controversial comments.
‘Avoid condoms because condoms aren’t pleasurable,’ he told the crowd.
Duterte encouraged women to take oral contraception, available for free.
‘Here, try eating it without unwrapping it,’ the president said putting a candy still wrapped in plastic in his mouth.
‘Eat it. That’s what a condom is like.’
Advocate groups and fellow politicians slammed Duterte’s comments.
The Philippines has one of the highest rates of new HIV cases in Asia. The HIV epidemic has been labelled a ‘national emergency’.
New HIV cases jumped a ‘terrifying’ 140% in only six years from 4,300 new cases in 2010 to about 10,500 in 2016.
‘President Duterte should stop making thoughtless, reckless and irresponsible statements at the expense of public health,’ said Senator Risa Hontiveros in a statement.
‘President Duterte seems to be overly concerned with pleasure. There is nothing pleasurable or funny about the rise in our cases of HIV and teen pregnancy.’
Not a ‘humorous aside’
International advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the president’s comments.
‘For Duterte’s supporters, the comment was just the latest of his “humorous asides” – like when he supposedly wisecracked about emulating Hitler in enshrining mass murder as state policy or joshed about the gang rape and murder of an Australian nun,’ said one of HRW’s Asia Division researchers, Carlos Conde.
‘But it’s irresponsible for the Philippine president to downplay the importance of condoms at a time when the Philippines is experiencing the fastest growing epidemic of HIV in the Asia-Pacific region.’
The Philippines is a largely Catholic nation. For a long time the Catholic Church has wanted to restrict access to condoms.
It is at the center of UNAIDS anti-HIV strategy because they are ‘cost-effective tools for preventing [HIV and] other sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies’.