Ecuador's first lady Maria de Lourdes Alcivar has sparked controversy with off-script remarks during an event to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Speaking at the launch of a campaign titled From Indignation to Action, the wife of centre-right President Guillermo Lasso called on women to be stronger and more assertive.
"A lot of times we want to think that no one understands us. We become victims and it's terrible," Alcivar said.
"No, women, we're not victims of anybody, only of ourselves if we allow ourselves to be.
"If we don't command respect, nothing's going to change."
Young girls and women need to be told to exercise good judgement around men, Alcivar said.
"We need to also try to make sure that girls from an early age are careful. Careful," she said.
"Being careful isn't a bad thing. We need to say that with truth and with love."
The first lady's remarks quickly went viral online, mostly provoking indignation on a day it was reported 196 women have died under violent circumstances so far in 2021, a record high since femicide was codified as a crime in Ecuador in 2014.
One Twitter user said Alcivar's comments were "terrible" and would encourage women to remain quiet and resolve their problems behind closed doors, where they would be "exposed to being attacked psychologically and physically and even end up killed".
Alcivar also referred in her remarks to marital disagreements, saying, "If you have a have a husband who suddenly raises
his voice, flies off the handle," it is important to know how to calm the situation and not allow it to escalate.
"We try to do that at home. If Guillermo is a bit upset, I prefer to stay clear. I go and live my life. I have fun ... then I come back and love and forgiveness prevail," she said.
Australian Associated Press