Congresswoman wants BBC's apology for racist skit


Posted at Oct 06 2008 03:07 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2008 11:07 PM

Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros on Monday asked the BBC to issue a public apology for presenting a racist, humiliating and disgusting depiction of a Filipina domestic worker.

"It was revolting. It was a disgusting and an insensitive and racist attempt to satirize a scene of exploitation," Rep. Hontiveros said.

The skit, a segment in the popular 'Harry and Paul' comedy show, was aired on BBC 2 last September 26, 2008. In the skit, a postman approached comedian Harry Enfield, who was clearly agitated and shouting at someone, and asked him what was going. It then turned to comedian Paul Whitehouse, who was seated on a chair on his lawn, and beside him was a young girl wearing a grey uniform and an apron gyrating and dancing lasciviously. Harry then told the postman that he was shouting at his Filipino maid to do her job and get his friend Paul to mate with her.

He kept ordering the girl to gyrate and dance in front of Paul and even instructed her to "hump him". When an indifferent Paul stood up to go inside the house, Harry scolded the Filipina girl, telling her to get out and just go. The scene closed with the postman sidling up to the Filipina, whispering to her as they walked off together. (View the entire episode in

"By making a horrible scene of exploitation an object of ridicule, the show trivializes an act of abuse commonly experienced by Filipina workers abroad. It desensitizes its audience on human trafficking, an issue that merit global indignation," Hontiveros said.

She added that it was a humiliating portrayal of Filipina workers abroad, most of whom have sacrificed their happiness to find decent jobs abroad.

Hontiveros said that it also promotes negative stereotypes that cultivate impunity among those who abuse Filipina workers abroad. "By making overseas Filipinas appear as submissive sex objects, it reinforces the notion that foreigners could easily hire small and sexy Filipina domestic helpers and goad them into becoming sexual objects," Rep. Hontiveros said.

"By making it a joke, it encourages a consciousness that promotes human trafficking."

The solon urged the Department of Foreign Affairs to file a complaint before the British government and demand for an apology from BBC.

"This has to be corrected. Otherwise, it would become easy for other media outfits to use Filipina workers abroad as an object of sexual ridicule. We are not asking for BBC to be politically correct. What we want them to recognize instead is that the exploitation of women should not be used as an object of ridicule," she said. "The media should be a partner against human
trafficking, and not an unwitting promoter of abuse because of insensitive and racist portrayals of women in trafficking."

"We hope that the UK government would likewise look into this issue and correct this sickening joke. UK has laws on equality and respect for diversity, and it has repeatedly made statements against human trafficking," Rep. Hontiveros said.

"The show does not exactly promote the stance against trafficking and abuse of women that the UK government has taken in the past."