A letter in the Independent
today tomorrow from an outstanding group of people who allowed me to join them:
Professor Alexis Jay’s report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham has been met with an array of trite responses. Some commentators have placed undue emphasis on the fact that child sexual exploitation happens in all communities, obfuscating the fact that offenders of Pakistani origin are over-represented in this specific form of child sexual exploitation (on-street grooming).
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre’s 2011 report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, researched 2,379 potential offenders caught grooming girls since 2008. Of 940 suspects whose race could be identified, 26 per cent were Asian (almost all of Pakistani origin), 38 per cent were white, and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. According to the Office of National Statistics, only 6 per cent of the English population is classed as Asian.
We must face up to the cultural, racial and even religious specifics in these crimes. The “double life” syndrome of some men in Pakistani communities cannot be ignored. At the more benign end of the scale, young people will have secret boyfriends and girlfriends, yet display a more pious image in front of their families. The sort of reprehensible conduct we have seen in towns like Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford is an extreme example of this phenomenon.
Tribal mentalities have imported an honour code that labels women as either honourable or shameful. In some quarters this has developed into an underground “gangster” culture of exploiting and abusing girls who do not fit the honour code. In either case, abuse must be exposed and perpetrators brought before the law.
The honour code has no place in this country: women and girls, regardless of background, culture, ethnicity, religion, lifestyle, or familial lineage, are of equal worth. Fortunately, there is an emerging generation of human rights activists in Britain – many of whom are young, female and secular-minded – who are campaigning hard against misogyny and patriarchy within our communities.
We will continue this important work, through raising awareness, lobbying parliamentarians and facilitating workshops with Muslim women. The victims’ best interests always come first – which is why silence and apologia should never have been an option.
Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Trustee, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Director, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Executive Director and founder, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation
Mahnaz Nadeem, Iram Ramzan, Ophelia Benson,
Deeyah Khan, Gina Khan, Habiba Jaan, Dr Elham Manea, Lejla Kurić