Couple charged with au pair abuse
May 2, 2010
A Norwegian couple living on Oslo’s affluent west side has been charged with exploiting and sexually abusing two young women from the Philippines, who came to Norway on au pair contracts. The case points up the lack of protection many au pairs can face in Norway.
Newspaper VG reported Sunday that the two Filipina women managed to run away from the home where they were living and went straight to the police. The police have charged the couple with human trafficking, forced labour and sexual abuse.
Both of the women are in their 20s and said they sent all of their earnings home to their impoverished families in the Philippines. They said they didn’t dare deny the Norwegian couple’s demands, for fear their wages would be withheld and they’d be sent home.
Rules cast aside
According to the Foreign Ministry’s rules for hiring au pairs, host families are supposed to speak Norwegian with the au pair and pay for Norwegian lessons. Host families are only supposed to have one au pair at a time, who can perform light housekeeping chores or help with child care, but not for more than five hours a day.
Instead, the two women said they were forced to work from early in the morning until late at night, often at the business of the Norwegian man. They were also forced to have sex with the couple.
The couple’s defense attorney told VG that they deny the charges the against them. Police, however, reportedly have reason to believe the couple has also exploited and abused au pairs on earlier occasions.
Conditions for au pairs in Norway have been harshly criticized, not least because their living arrangements often are not monitored and the au pairs feel they have few rights or recourse. Labour leaders have claimed that au pairs are mostly brought to Norway as cheap household help, saying their situation can amount to “social dumping disguised as cultural exchange.”
Newspaper Dagsavisen ran a series of articles on au pair abuse last year, and state officials were supposed to evaluate their situation. State secretary Libe Rieber-Mohn admitted that current regulations weren’t working, and promised new measures to prevent social dumping.
An estimated 2,500 au pairs now live and work in Norway, according to VG, with more than half of them coming from the Philippines.
The two women who fled their Norwegian employer are now reportedly living at a secret address in Norway.