FORWARD’s take on the ‘Harry and Paul’ episode

Here’s FORWARD’s take on the ‘Harry and Paul’ episode. If you’re read my post, you’ll know I disagree with the petition. Nevertheless, it raises some important points that deserve highlighting.

BBC sketch trivialises sexual abuse of migrant workers

October 7 2008

The BBC should apologise for airing a segment of Harry and Paul on September 26 2008, which included a racist, sexist and humiliating portrayal of a domestic worker from the Philippines. It clearly contravenes the OFCOM Broadcasting Code, Section 2 on Harm and Offence with (1) its specific targeting of a marginalised and vulnerable group, and (2) its trivialisation of sexual abuse.
The scene in question trivialises an act of abuse commonly experienced by Filipina workers abroad. By broadcasting this sketch, the BBC is reinforcing — if not condoning — sexist and dangerous stereotypes that validate the sexual slavery of vulnerable groups.

The London-based charity Kalayaan, which provides support for migrant domestic workers (MDWs) of all nationalities, reported that nearly three-fourths (75%) of domestic workers who passed through the charity in 2005 experienced some form of abuse from their employers — physical and psychological. Among them, three per cent (3%) experienced violent sexual abuse. This figure is believed to be highly underrepresented however, as many MDWs wish to avoid the stigma and isolation that come with admitting to sexual abuse.

Migrant domestic workers are part of British life; they work hard to support British families and contribute to the British economy, as well as to the families they leave behind. Migrant domestic workers are, by British law, defined as workers entitled to the same employment rights equal to all residents of the UK. They deserve dignity and respect for their work, and should not be degraded in this manner by the BBC, no less.

There are currently more than 150,000 Filipinos living and working in the UK, with an estimated 10% in domestic service. As one of Britain’s many ethnic minority groups, Filipinos are spread through various occupational sectors and contribute to the vibrant community that is modern Britain. They also make up an active portion of BBC viewers.

The BBC should be held to account for the sloppy, misleading excuse for ‘satire’ in the Harry & Paul sketch, and ensure that things of that degrading nature are not broadcast. Otherwise it provides a justification for other media outfits to stereotype Filipina domestic workers as passive sexual objects, while trivialising sexual exploitation in general — the realities of which are too horrid to be used as comic filler.

FORWARD-UK (Filipinos Overseas Working to Advance Reform, Democracy & Development) is calling on Filipinos and the British public to complain to the Office of Communications (Ofcom). We likewise demand a public apology from the BBC, and Harry and Paul’s producers, writers and actors.

The clip can be seen on Youtube at