Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno is under fire after making a not-so-funny joke about violence against women.
During an investor’s meeting in Guayaquil, a western port city, on January 31, the South American country’s leader said that “men are constantly subject to the danger of being accused of harassment” and then quipped that ugly men, in particular, face a greater risk of being reported for their attacks.
“I see women making harassment claims a lot of times, yes, it’s good that they do that. But sometimes they only target those people who are ugly for harassment,” Moreno, 66, said, according to CNN. “If the person is attractive, based on the canons of society, [women] don’t necessarily consider it harassment.”
While some in the mostly-male room laughed, many more in the country were outraged by his dangerously erroneous and misogynistic remark. In response to the backlash, Moreno apologized for his quip. Well, kind of. He mostly just expressed regret for how his so-called joke was interpreted.
“In my comment about harassment, I never meant to minimize such a serious issue like violence or abuses. I apologize if that is how it was interpreted. I reject violence against women in all its forms,” he tweeted in Spanish.
The questionable apology hasn’t subdued the backlash. Last week, Ecuador’s leading human rights watchdog Quito’s Council for the Protection of Rights slammed the president for propagating a harmful myth and turning violence against women into a gag.
“A sort of ‘joke’ about sexual harassment, which came from the country’s highest authority, exposes how terribly naturalized this sexist act — which affects nearly every woman in different places and of any age group — is. Women are exposed to this type of violence regularly in educational centers, universities, workspaces, political organizations, public transportation, streets, plazas, etc. Maybe that’s why it seems normal, tolerable and ridiculous,” the group said in a statement.
According to Ecuador’s National Institute of Statistics and Census, more than 32% of women in the country report being survivors of sexual violence — and it’s likely that 100% of them do not care about the phsyical appearance of the predator that violated them.