By: Murtaza Ali Shah
LONDON: Pakistani girls are the biggest victims amongst Asian girl victims of child grooming gangs but the authorities have failed to take action because of their total focus is on white victims of child grooming by the English and the Muslim gangs.
A major report titled “Unheard Voices: the sexual exploitation of Asian girls and young women” suggests that cases of child grooming within the Asian communities fail to come under the police or the social services’ radar because the girls – who are often aged between 13 to 30 – fear they will not be believed or because they are threatened by their elders that their actions will bring shame and dishonour on their families and communities.
The report was released at the House of Commons where specialists, senior politicians and community experts welcomed the findings of the report and called on the authorities to look beyond their defined focus.
Shaista Gohir, MBE, author of the report and head of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, told The News in an interview: “In our research, the majority of victims of sexual exploitation were Muslim and two thirds – about 66 percent – were of Pakistani background. When victims were Pakistani, the offenders were also Pakistani. The Pakistani girls were being abused by Pakistani men from their own communities and being passed around for sex.”
Shaista Gohir, who is of Pakistani origin, said that the victim girls are unable to report because of honour and shame and being blackmailed by the men. “For too long there has been silence on this issue within Pakistani communities. There are people who know this is taking place but are not speaking out. These men must be named and shamed.”
Government minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi told The News that Pakistani communities must realise the seriousness of the problem and take a stand against the perpetrators of crimes hiding in the communities. “The Muslim communities can no longer turn their heads away and blame others. The cases of Asian and Muslim female victims make for hard reading, but this report, and other research like it, is necessary if we are to take the action needed to stamp out these abhorrent crimes.”
Sue Berelowitz, the deputy children’s commissioner, said that the report breaks the myth that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males as if these men only target girls from outside of their communities. She warned against stereotyping of Pakistanis, Asian or Muslims and stressed that predators come from all communities and are driven by criminality and selfishness. She said that most paedophiles and child sex groomers were from the white communities but added that victims, similarly, came from all backgrounds and ethnicities.
Nazir Afzal, head of the Crown Prosecution Service for the north-west, said the perpetrators in these so-called group-grooming cases do not limit their criminal behaviour to white girls, though most were. “We know that women and victims from minorities are even more reluctant to report these crimes, in part because of honour and shame issues. That is why this research is so important. It is the availability of victims coupled with their vulnerability that leads to them being targeted by these predators.”
Shadow Lord Chancellor Sadiq Khan told The News that child sexual exploitation is clearly a complex and widespread issue that is not limited to one community. “It is hoped that steps will now be taken to ensure they no longer continue to be overlooked by service providers and support agencies.” He blamed the coalition government’s fund cuts for support groups for the lack of reporting on hidden abuse of minors.
An overwhelming majority of child-sex offenders in Britain are white men but Pakistanis are over-represented amongst all ethnic communities as recent cases in Rotherham, Derby and Oxford showed that Asian men – led by Pakistani youth – groomed vulnerable white girls for prostitution and their own satisfaction.
The report says that most of the Asian victims came from London, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire and in almost all cases vulnerable girls were groomed by younger boys or older “boyfriends” who then introduced them to other men and then passed them on.
Over a five-month period researchers gathered evidence mainly from professionals working in charitable organisations but also spoke to social services, police, youth work, health care, education, justice and voluntary organisations and uncovered 35 cases where young Asians said they had been victims of abuse. Most of the girls told the researchers that they had been abused by men from their own communities.