Firstly, let us define what “decent ” means in this article. It refers to an OFW Filipina who is not a prostitute. The job or salary does not matter. Whether she is an office employee, a teacher, a sales staff or a household helper — as long as she is not in the sex trade — she is decent, as far as this article is concerned.
If you are a decent Filipina and you decide to work abroad , especially in an Arab country, you have to bear in mind that you are carrying a stigma . And that you will be working and living in a backdrop of prejudice related to loose morals and sexuality. Most likely, you will be mistaken for a prostitute or a low-income worker moonlighting as a hooker. You will have to prepare yourself for insulting remark, degrading looks from men and women from other countries, and brazen attempts to take advantage of you.
“ Indecent proposals ” are a common staple of a Pinay OFW’s experience. The proposal comes in different male tactics. She sits alone in a café, and someone passes a piece of tissue paper which says “ Wanna go out ? How much ? ”. She walks on a street, a car passes by and the male passengers taunt her with “ Five dinars ! ” ( or riyals , depending on the country . And yes, that’s supposed to be her “ tag price” . ) She goes jogging , a car trails her and the driver “ offers a ride ”. Decent Filipinas experience this almost all the time . And sometimes, it’s hard to tolerate the insult and control the rage within.
Before we go further, let us take a look at the root cause of this perception problem. We have to admit that there are Pinays working or sidelining as prostitutes abroad. We cannot deny that . We have no official statistics on this but a short stroll on the streets of Dubai or Hong Kong will reveal the scope of this unfortunate truth. Economic hardships at home have forced not a few Filipinas into this lowly trade. As the diaspora has widened, so has the stereotype.
Of course, prostitution is a universal phenomenon. No country doesn’t have it . Some won’t just admit it. It is not confined to the Filipinas alone . But stereotypes are very difficult to change. Even if you slap some people with a UN- or ILO-certified fact sheet saying that most expat Filipinas are actually in decent, respectable careers — their perception won’t change . Their opinion has been marred by previous experiences or by what they hear from their own kind. People will believe only what they want to believe. It’s useless to explain.
This prejudice is not a problem for women who are really in the sex trade. They are ready for it . They have hardened their guts for it. It is really the decent women like you who have to bear the brunt of the disdain, the heckling , the danger.
However , there are things you can do to lessen the likelihood of getting that “proposal”.
You have to be careful with your behavior when in public. Courtesy is always advisable but too much friendliness can be misinterpreted as an “ invitation”. Eye-to-eye contact with men poses no problem in the work place or in a professional context , but outside of work — like in a mall or on the street— eye contact , especially a lingering one, will send the wrong message . A revealing attire and a flirtatious gesture may also be taken as an “ advertisement” .—-so it’s better to cover that skin and watch your gestures . You are not in the Philippines. Moreover, you should avoid isolated places where shady deals usually happen . When you are alone , a conspicuously plugged ear phone usually discourages conversation —let alone “ proposals ”. It will even save you from hearing unwelcome comments .
But what can you do when you actually get that “ proposal” ?
When it happens in a public place like a street or a restaurant, keep calm and make no scene when there is no imminent danger. Calmly , but seriously say “ NO.” Men who make the “ offer” usually do not insist when they realize that the woman is not for it . If they do insist , then , it’s time to make a little scene to attract other people’s attention. Say NO in a strong , raised tone . Public attention will likely make them stop and leave . As for hecklers in passing cars, you can just ignore them. It’s not advisable to yell back. By the time you have screamed your protestations , the car is gone and you only get puzzled or sarcastic stares from passers-by. If it is very unlikely that you and that man would cross paths again — you can just let it pass.
Indeed, there are many times in your expat life when you have to control your anger . Other women choose to exchange verbal tirades when they hear offensive comments . But this may spiral out of control . For example, if the man is a local , and he felt offended or embarrassed by your reaction, he can give you a problem more complicated than a bruised pride. He can easily trace where you live and harass you to no end .He may even be a relative of your boss and invent things that may jeopardize your employment . Remember , you are in an alien territory . Locals can circumvent almost everything. So, before you go ballistic because someone made an indecent proposal — ask yourself how far you can fight back when things get nastier . Sometimes , walking away from an insult is the wisest thing to do.
When the proposal is repeated by the same person – such as a neighbor or a co-worker —you should tackle things differently. Keeping quiet is not the right thing to do. If you simply keep quiet and ignore him, he may assume that you are just playing hard to get . Make sure that you have said “NO” in a very clear manner . Warn him that if he repeats his offensive offer, you will report him . With the use of your phone, you can actually record his attempts. Telling someone else about these incidents is also a good move . At work , you may inform your supervisor or a Human Resources staff or anyone else who has some degree of power. You may also tell the landlord or a trustworthy neighbor. It is also safer to live with or near other Filipinos.
On the other hand , the case changes when a man insists and seems determined to force you. That’s no longer just a “ proposal “ . It’s an impending rape and assault . Your life is now on the line. That’s the time to make a scene . Attract attention. Shout for help. Use your gadget. If you have time , take a photo of the person and send it to somebody online . You have to move away from the situation as quickly as possible.
At this point, we have to emphasize the importance of personal image. Right from the beginning of your expat life , you have to build a positive reputation. Excel in your work without bragging and behave in such a manner that commands respect . If you do this , more people will be on your side. It also makes you credible when you make a complaint against someone . It sounds unfair — but no one believes a flirtatious woman when she sues someone for sexual harassment. And yes, many Filipinas are perceived as flirtatious and loose.
Let us summarize what we have been talking about . Calmly reject one-time random indecent proposals from strangers. Speak up loud and clear against a repeated offer from the same person in a familiar place. Run away and scream for help when someone gets too close or starts touching you.
Indeed, a Pinay OFW’s life is a tough lot. Surely, you will face many trials and challenges . But with the right behavior , precautions and prayers — you can survive the experience, achieve your dreams and get back home richer and wiser .