Britain confronts sex-grooming networks

Recent immigrants' backwards beliefs about women seen as possible cause for pattern of crimes.

Shadow of women 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Shadow of women 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Earlier this month, nine men of Pakistani heritage were convicted in a British court of the sexual abuse of seven young girls.  The men preyed on girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in the market town of Rochdale in Greater Manchester, by grooming them with gifts of food, clothes, alcohol and drugs before forcing them to engage in sexual acts and prostitution.
These were local girls.  These were not girls who shared the Pakistani heritage of the convicted sex offenders.  Instead, these girls were white and working class.
The groomers drove mini-cabs, or worked in local takeaway food shops.  They focused on troubled children from at-risk backgrounds.  They used empty apartments or cars as their venues for abusing and pimping out the young prey.  They viewed their victims as fair game.
As a result of these uncomfortable attributes, the Rochdale case and similar incidents across Britain have become the subject of a highly politicized, emotional public debate over what is actually happening in the country and why.
The Rochdale convictions come after unsuccessful attempts in 2008 to investigate claims made by young girls that they were passed around for sex with much older men.  The stories told by these girls are horrendous, but it was only after a second inquiry was launched in 2010 that significant progress was made.
Importantly, following these convictions, local police, prosecutors and social services in Rochdale issued their own apology for not doing more to pursue these allegations sooner.  The original criminal investigation is now subject to an independent review to see if police standards were breeched.  One victim was supposedly under 24-hour a day supervision by social workers, but still managed to go missing for weeks at a time.  It is clear that law enforcement and social services have been both lacking in empathy and overly obsessed with political correctness.
Were hypersensitivity and fears of being branded “racist” enough to cause British police officers to turn their backs on these young victims?
Police officials have stressed that they see the ethnicity of the perpetrators in the Rochdale case as secondary to the much more important element of adults preying on vulnerable children.  However days after the conviction, there were more arrests made. These instances involved nine other men suspected of sexually abusing another young girl in Rochdale.  The Member of Parliament for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, has gone on record with his view that there is a wider problem in his community and that this is not simply a one-off case.
In a separate conviction this week, a Bangladeshi man in Carlisle was convicted of running a brothel from his kabab shop with girls as young as twelve.  In his own defense, the man expressed contempt for the “white trash” girls he abused.  They were not like his own children, who would never be caught out at night, after 11 p.m., drinking in the middle of town.
The lead prosecutor for the Rochdale grooming ring, Nazir Afzal, has blamed “imported cultural baggage” for the prevalence of men of Pakistani origin being involved in these sex grooming rings.  Although some liberal voices have stressed that these abuses occur across all ethnic and religious groups, Afzal has stated that these men view young white girls as “lesser beings.”
These are vile men who saw no reason not to take advantage of vulnerable young girls.
It is important for a society to protect its children.  Recently, honor crimes and female genital mutilation have received increased global condemnation as unacceptable cultural practices that cannot be ignored under the rubric of multiculturalism.  Similar steps should now be taken to identify and address the degrading and demeaning beliefs about modern, Western women that underlie many of these grooming cases.  Notably, many of the defendants in the Rochdale case showed little shame during the trial.
Is the threat of rape and sexual assault so ever-present in traditional communities in rural Pakistan that the only means to protect your sisters and daughters is to ensure that they are veiled and always accompanied by a male relative?  Is the sight of woman alone, in contemporary dress, a sure sign that she is, in fact, fair game?
Over two million Britons are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Indian heritage, and over a million Britons are Muslims.  As a result, it is clearly wrong to oversimplify and generalize the behavior of nine, or 90 or even 900, men.  However, a pattern has emerged involving a small sub-set of recent immigrants from rural communities who retain backwards beliefs about women who are not members of their own insular communities.
Judge Gerald Clifton, who handed down the guilty verdicts against the Rochdale sex ring, stated that the sexual abuse of these white girls was acceptable to the perpetrators because they were not members of the same community and religion.  The girls were something less valuable. They were fair game.
Although white men, acting alone, are responsible for most of the sexual offenses in Britain, these incidents of coordinated sexual grooming cannot be explained away as statistical anomalies or crude racist profiling by the far Right.
A blind eye cannot be turned to these cases.  Denial and delay have no place here.  Wherever sexual grooming gangs operate, regardless of the community, they must be prosecuted and stopped.