The quip was made during an investor’s meeting in the city of Guayaquil on Jan. 31, where he said “men are constantly subject to the danger of being accused of harassment.”
“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 said.
“If the person is attractive, based on the canons of society, [women] don’t necessarily consider it harassment,” the 66-year-old leader continued. He got a couple of chuckles and applause from what appeared to be a mostly male audience.
But the comments had already gone viral, sparking outrage online.
On Monday, Quito’s Council for the Protection of Rights, one of Ecuador’s main human rights watchdogs, condemned Moreno’s comments for “joking” about sexual harassment.
“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,” read the council’s statement.
The incident comes just days after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) began hearings regarding a high-profile 2002 case that alleges the Ecuadorian government failed to investigate or hold responsible a 65-year-old school official accused of sexually abusing one of his teenage students, who later died by suicide.
The IACHR is expected to deliver its verdict on the case by the end of the year.