British Pakistanis are over-represented in this kind of child abuse
Much of the British media has not taken kindly to the Government’s new plans to clamp down on grooming gangs. After the Prime Minister announced a raft of policies to tackle the crisis, columnists singled out Home Secretary Suella Braverman for claiming that British Pakistanis were largely to blame for child abuse networks in the UK.
The Guardian’s political editor rushed to refer to the 2020 Home Office report, which she said “concluded majority of child sexual abuse gangs are made up of white men under age of 30”; presenter Adil Ray compared the “racist” reaction to Braverman’s claim to the atmosphere after “9/11 and 7/7”; and the i paper’s chief political commentator argued that “Rishi Sunak’s focus on Asian grooming gangs fails his own test of ‘evidence-based politics’”. Politicians were also swift to condemn the Home Secretary’s comments, with West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin describing the statement as “dog whistle politics”.
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These are just a handful of examples. But this week, Braverman responded by telling me that “it’s not racist to tell the truth,” defending her claim that British Pakistanis are over-represented in this kind of child abuse. Downing Street was more mealy-mouthed, adding that there was insufficient evidence linking ethnicity to abuse.
The 2020 Home Office report to which Braverman’s critics keep referring is deeply flawed. Although it concluded that a majority of group-based abusers were white, it warned that the data was too poor to be certain and also said that many studies showed ethnic minorities were over-represented.
Even if Rotherham, Rochdale and Telford had been isolated or minority cases, they would still have been notable. Only around 2-3% of the population of Rotherham during the period examined by the Jay Report came from a Pakistani ethnic background. Most abusers of the 1,400 girls therefore came from a population of only around 8,000 people. They were hugely over-represented.
In Rotherham, the Casey Report also found that the majority of abusers were of Pakistani ethnicity and the majority of victims were white. This was “a matter of fact”. Rotherham Council was scared of mentioning ethnicity and confronting that there was “a race issue here.”
The scale of the abuse in small towns; the total failures of the authorities due to fears of being seen as racist; and the close-knit groups of family, friends and work colleagues who deliberately preyed on girls from another community would still make these the worst race hate crimes in 21st-century Britain.
In the year-long investigation for my documentary on grooming gangs, my team trawled through all of the available Government, police and academic research and reporting on the nature of group-based child sexual exploitation. We did find a pattern.
A 2020 study titled “Group Localised Child Sexual Exploitation Offenders: Who and Why?” showed that people of Muslim and especially Pakistani heritage were significantly over-represented in group-based localised child sexual exploitation. By comparing the number of prosecutions to the overall population, it showed that one in every 2,200 Muslim men over 16 in England and Wales had been prosecuted for this crime from 1997 to 2017. When it came to Pakistanis, it was one in 1,700.
What’s more, there’s plenty of evidence from prosecutions that the abusers chose their victims for racial reasons. They were “white girls”, “white slags”, “white bitches”. This is the language of racism — and yet Britain’s leading anti-racist charities don’t seem to see it that way.
It’s clear that many in the British Asian community were unwilling to face reality when this national scandal was brewing. When Labour MP Anne Cryer spoke to local imams about Asian men abusing white girls, they didn’t want to hear it.
Despite prosecution after prosecution, there is still a complete unwillingness to have a conversation about this problem. The vicious reaction to Braverman’s (accurate) comments reveal as much. Until that changes, this crisis will only worsen.