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Focus on ‘Asian gangs’ takes away from the victims

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This article originally appeared in The Backbencher on 25/11/2012

This week on BBC Asian Network, the topic on Wednesday morning was: “has the media got it wrong by focusing on Pakistan child grooming gangs?”

It was not long before the majority of the callers, including former Labour MP Ann Cryer, were quick to point out that this was specifically a ‘Pakistani problem’ because Indian or Bangladeshi men had not been involved.

Let me make one thing absolutely clear, before you all start accusing me of being in denial or other such things. I was absolutely appalled at the behaviour of these gangs in Rochdale – I hope they are left to rot in jail. But what disgusts me even more is how people have jumped on the bandwagon and started brandishing their pitchforks, determined to point the finger at Pakistani or Muslim men.

Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz said this week that the “model” of Asian men targeting white girls was just one of “a number of models”, and warned that if investigators concentrated on those patterns, victims could fall through the net. The report concluded that both boys and girls could be victims of sexual exploitation, although the vast majority were girls. However, something which was not revealed in the media at the time was that almost three out of ten victims (28 per cent) were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

This is the key point, given that the general perception and crude stereotype seemed to be that there were dangerous brown men only after white flesh, because of some underlying prejudice where they see all white females as easy targets and more ‘available’ than their Asian or Muslim counterparts.

Furthermore, this should, hopefully, quell the myth that somehow Pakistani or Muslim men avoid abusing their ‘own’ women out of respect – that is simply not true. Men such as the ones who were  arrested in Rochdale have absolutely no respect for females of any kind, whether they are white or brown. They are monsters. End of.

Academic Vron Ware recounts that the black male has been historically ‎constructed as the antithesis of white femininity, sexually predatory upon white innocence and ‎beauty – the black male has now been substituted for ‘Asian’ or ‘Muslim’.

The danger with this finger pointing and crude stereotyping is that the victims often lose out.

The Children’s Commissioner’s report says that approximately one third of abusers, about which they received data, are Asian but ethnicity isn’t an issue.

In the vast majority of cases the ethnicity of perpetrators is not collected and it may be that their ethnicity is more likely to be recorded if they are non-white. Overall, the percentages were skewed to show a higher percentage of perpetrators were Asian than is really the case.*



In certain areas ‘Asian gangs’ can form a bigger percentage, especially if they are a bigger part of the local population, but that does not make it an ‘Asian’ problem. Yet there is this danger now that many Pakistani men will be suspected of being potential groomers or abusers

A social worker on BBC Asian Network recounted how young Asian men are now under the spotlight – pregnant white women who come into hospital with their Asian boyfriends are suddenly suspected of being groomed by them with no reason, other than seeing partners with two different skin colours.

The victim loses out once again

The discourse of the grooming case has been dominated by this idea that there is a cultural issue behind the sexual abuse of white girls. Unfortunately, this takes away from the fact that young girls, or children rather (let us not forget they were still children), were being abused for a significant period of time. While we have all debated how it is brown men that are causing the problems on our streets, we forgot to ask ourselves – what about the children?

Because, let’s face it, Pakistani abusers receive more headlines and it sells more papers, and eventually plays into the hands of the racists, such as the BNP and EDL, who don’t really care about the victims, they are just looking for someone to scapegoat.

Debating the race, ethnicity or nationality of those monsters to me is irrelevant and trivial and the abuse goes unnoticed. This needs to be addressed.

Instead, the focus should be on the victims. Social services and the police need to be trained and guided on how to identify children who may be subjected to sexual abuse or grooming. They need to be helped first. That way, the abusers are caught – it is not easy to find out who is an abuser, it just does not work like that, whereas there are often tell-tale signs of a child who is being abused. Once a victim is identified, the abuser can be apprehended. The police and social services can then find out who else is being groomed or abused.

An Asian problem?

Sexual abuse is a taboo everywhere, especially in Asian communities. Not all abuse is documented, or ever found out.  Asian women are less likely to report abuse because of this notion of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’.

Amongst Asians, the family (extended over numerous households) is a fundamental and influential foundation, providing financial support and emotional security. The accomplishments of an Asian family are judged in terms of the family as a whole, so privacy or independence is seen as undesirable. Gender stereotypes are highly conventional and since women are held responsible for maintaining family honour, known as izzat, and avoiding sharam (shame) the family may justify women being guarded and considered not as individuals but as property.

This leaves many Asian girls even more vulnerable because they are less likely to speak out. So we need a better system in place that can help even more young boys and girls come forward if they are being abused.

At the end of the day, our first priority should be helping the victims, and I hope that after this report we can see past the labels and put the victims first.


* This paragraph has been amended to include the unreliability of the data

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