Grooming gangs: Tackle the crime not the community
Another Pakistani grooming gang has been uncovered. This time in the city of Rotherham where groups of men preyed on vulnerable women who were abused over a sustained period of time. Once again politicians and the media see it fit to conflate the long cover up of sex crime with ethnicity. Since the identification of the men involved a damning report has blamed the lack of leadership from politicians and councillors in confronting the abuse.
According to Simon Danczuk MP for Rotherham, politics ‘imported from Pakistan’ and the culture of intimidation as well as closing ranks has had a negative impact on local politics in the UK. Further adding that Asian councillors face immense pressure from the community to conform and turn a blind eye. The people at the top, politicians and councillors alike thinks it’s appropriate to blame the community, the very people who Danczuk and councillors are meant to represent so why are they unable to convey what the Pakistani community really think about this issue? Easy, because there’s a blatant void in grassroots activism by these leaders. The swift passing of the buck is a convenient way to deflect from their failures.
Jawaab a not-for-profit campaigning organisation based in London tackled the issue of grooming gangs head on. Jawaab during 2013 worked on a campaign entitled ‘the grassroots voices of British-Pakistanis’.
Jawaab toured three major cities speaking to British-Pakistanis’, from students, activists to professionals. By filming a series of debate shows, our participants spoke at length and frankly about grooming gangs. These voices hardly make it to the news despite being the most significant to dispel the demonization taking place by certain media outlets. Brit-Pak voices on grooming gangs By the British Police’s own admission the perpetrators of sex crimes are white males. The people taking part in the campaign stressed this by saying figures presented in the media are a manipulation of data sets. In the Manchester show, people spoke of the Pakistani communities shock and disgust at the crime. Members of the community wanted to see strong action taken against the Rochdale gang first convicted of sexual grooming. In the case of the Rochdale gang the police were informed about their activities in 2008 due to complaints filed by victims and their families. In the case of Rotherham, the perpetrators slipped through the net for over ten years.
The victims were subjected to abuse spanning from 1997 – 2013 and the authorities took no action. Akin to the Rochdale case the authorities were reluctant to escalate the complaints out of fear from a community backlash. There was considerable racial sensitivity due the men being Pakistani. Ann Cryer MP the former MP for Keighley met with victims and their families. Deeply troubled she fought hard for the cases to be taken seriously by social services and the police. At the time her pleas were ignored. Frustrated and very disappointed Ms Cryer said: "neither the police nor social services would touch those cases...I think it was they were afraid of being called racist.” A pivotal moment came when the Crown Prosecution Service appointed Nazir Afzal as the Chief Crown Prosecutor of North West England. Mr Afzal, insisted the culprits be brought to justice irrespective of their race and importantly vulnerable girls in society need to be protected. He overturned the original decision not to prosecute the gang.
All those taking part in the campaign echoed these sentiments stating that there needs to be paramount importance attached to safeguarding the vulnerable irrespective of race. Contrary to media reports that claim white girls are specifically targeted, Asian women too have fallen victim. Jawaab’s participants stress the need to tackle the crime and not the race or community of perpetrators. Further to this, in recent times there has been a catalogue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, the UK broadcasting industry, and the supply of underage rent boys in the Tory party. While these crimes have been reported it was noted by the participants that neither institutions nor the race of the people involved are left stigmatized. All those that participated stressed that those who commit sexual offences on the Pakistani community are a very small minority of people. Therefore, it’s grossly unfair for the media to portray sexual grooming as being a feature of the Pakistani community.