Women Activists, Migrant Workers Assail Sexist Portrayal of Filipino Domestic Workers in BBC Segment

On the Occasion of International Day of No Prostitution:
Women Activists, Migrant Workers Assail Sexist Portrayal of Filipino Domestic Workers in BBC Segment
Call for Full Employment and End to Sexual Exploitation!

More than 100 members of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights (People’s Global Action), Alliance of Progressive Labor – Women (APL), World March of Women – Pilipinas and PREDA Foundation gathered this afternoon in front of the House of Representatives to mark the International Day of No Prostitution (IDNP) and call for the immediate passage of House Bill 970 or the Anti-Prostitution Bill.

As the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) to be held in Manila comes closer, the alliance of organizations lambasted the sexist and racist exploitation of women here and abroad. “Worse,” Jean Enriquez, Executive Director of CATW-AP said, “this sexual exploitation of Filipino women is normalized and reinforced by shows such as BBC’s Harry and Paul. Worst, our government’s inaction on the unemployment problem relegates our women precisely to situations of sexual exploitation.”

Holding placards asserting that prostitution is not work, the APL criticized the toleration by the government of the prostitution industry. According to the labor center, even the International Labor Organization, in its report entitled The Sex Sector: The economic and social bases of prostitution in Southeast Asia normalized prostitution by stating that “adults can choose prostitution as work”, naming it as sex work.

Marlene Sindayen of the APL was indignant, emphasizing that “government policies should be towards creation of local work with dignity, full employment for all Filipino people and not contractualization, nor promotion of a labor export policy that results in intensified vulnerabilities of women to trafficking and sexual exploitation.”

IMF, in today’s news, warns that migrants will be affected by the financial crisis as companies in host countries start laying off employees. This makes the call for full employment in the country of origin even more urgent, the group said. Based on the labor force survey of 2007, it is evident that the government’s major job generation design is not for local employment, rather it is for sending workers overseas, targeting 1 million annually.

“The government keeps on sending Filipinos abroad for profit. However, it is neglecting its primary duty to prioritize the protection, welfare and human rights of the migrants” according to Ellene Sana, representative of the People’s Global Action, a collaboration of various local and international groups and activists that challenges the GFMD.

It is very ironic and shameful that the Philippines is viewed in the global arena as the model in labor migration even as it fails to address the human rights violations, gender oppression and discrimination confronted by our women migrants.

Meanwhile, survivors of prostitution joined the rally to call for the immediate passage of the anti-prostitution law that seeks to eliminate sexual exploitation in the long term, and decriminalize the victims therein. “We immediately need the anti-prostitution law that will protect the victims from further abuse” declared by Liza Gonzales, a survivor of street prostitution and an officer of Bagong Kamalayan Collective, Inc. (BKCI), a survivor’s group that organizes prostituted women in Quezon City area. According to BKCI’s data, from August and first week of September alone, they were able to rescue almost 70 women who were arrested using the recent SB Discipline Zone. This new project introduced by QC Mayor Belmonte together with QC Police District and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) was launched April of this year. The intent of the project is to “clean the major thoroughfares from illegal terminals, vendors, jaywalkers, traffic violators and street toughies.” However, this new policy is also being applied to prostituted women, especially in the Cubao area.

“We, prostituted women, are not trashes that should be swept out of the streets just for the purpose of beautification. What we need are protection and alternatives, not further abuse!” Gonzales added.

“Criminalizing prostituted women using the Vagrancy Act and policies like “Discipline Zones” are unconstitutional and constitute human rights violation,” added Enriquez. If the local and national governments are really committed to do their jobs, they should allocate their energies and resources in solving the root cause of the problem and not in doing the easy work of covering up the symptoms, the women’s coalition’s Executive Director said.

A delegation went inside the House of Representatives to lobby for the immediate passage of the House Bill 970 to House Speaker Prospero Nograles, Representatives Pablo Garcia and Nanette Daza, Chairs of the Committees on Revision of Laws and Women, respectively.

A street presentation was delivered by the members of the theater group of PREDA foundation portraying the lives of the victims/survivors of trafficking and prostitution.

“The two UK comedians and BBC owe Filipino people especially women, a sincere apology” the group said. “Exploitation is not entertainment and will never be. BBC’s Harry and Paul (video sketch) encourages trafficking of women – the delivery of women abroad as domestic workers, to put them in situations of sexual exploitation.”

The action ended with chants of “Women & Migrants are not Commodities! Provide work with dignity and full employment to all, not prostitution! Pass the Anti-Prostitution Bill!

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