Sayeeda Warsi doesn’t often catch a fair wind in the British media. That’s not really a surprise; very few female politicians do once they hold a position or take a view. I have always had a great deal of respect for Sayeeda. She will, if she gets the remotest chance, say it just as it is. This week, in an interview in the Evening Standard, she made the following comment:
“There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game and we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first… This small minority who see women as second class citizens, and white women probably as third class citizens, are to be spoken out against."
Last week, in the Sun newspaper, I wrote about the issue of the gang of nine Asian men who had been imprisoned at Liverpool Crown Court for the grooming, sexually abusing and raping of underage girls. I accepted the offer to write the article as I felt very strongly that the girls who had been subjected to the rape and sexual abuse were being let down by the authorities in whom they had attempted to place their trust, and that in order for any good to come out of what had happened, everyone needs to be fully aware of exactly what is happening.
Highlighting what has happened helps to ensure that a practice which is becoming increasingly common in northern Lancashire towns is out in the open and it plays an important part in the process of breaking down the taboo which surrounds the issue, which in itself contributes to the desperate situation some girls find themselves in. Not being afraid to publicly acknowledge the problem helps to erase the sensitivities which surround race issues and political correctness.
When Sayeeda spoke out, she did so on behalf of white British girls who have been and are daily subjected to this particularly hideous type of abuse.
Some of the facts and information which have come to light since the conviction underline that this is a debate which needs to be had out in the open as it revolves around the most vulnerable people in our society: children in care.
The former Prisons Inspector, Martin Narey, was the first person in authority and with influence to publicly acknowledge the appalling situation. On the Today programme he stated that in his experience of running prisons, the men convicted of sex offences are overwhelmingly white, however, ”there is a specific problem in Northern towns such as Rochdale and Oldham where gangs of Asian men groom young white girls for sex.”
Some of the stories are horrific, such as a young girl being driven around northern towns to have sex with as many as twenty five men in one night. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the young girls who are preyed upon are in the care system and are supposed to be protected by the state. In his summing up of the case in Liverpool Crown Court, the judge emphasised this in the wording of his ruling as he said the men had preyed upon the girls ‘in a period of their life full of difficulty and misery’.
Not every victim of the Rochdale gang was a full-time resident of a care home, but they were all from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. Those who weren’t already known to Social Services clearly would have been before very long as a result of their dysfunctional home life, blighted by poverty and worklessness, which would have led them to the door of a social worker before long. However, they all had the misfortune to meet the exploitative young Muslim men who recognised their vulnerability and used and abused it to their own ends.
Grooming begins with kind words and presents. It is hard for us to understand how much it means to a young girl who has spent much of her life in difficult circumstances when she is offered a gift from what appears to be a kind stranger, even if it is just a few cigarettes. To these girls, a present, something not asked for or stolen, equates to an overt sign of affection which results in enhancing their own feeling of self worth and status. Accompanied by the right words, these girls are easily made to feel like a princess. This is the art of grooming, but unfortunately, the gifts soon turn into abuse and threats, by which time it’s too late.
The traditional support system which would prevent young girls from such abuse in the first place has disappeared as elements within society have broken down. It starts with the role of the family, mothers and fathers, in protecting their children from the threat of being groomed. The family unit with strong, protective nurturing parents simply doesn’t exist for many of the young girls with chaotic home lives who are groomed. For those who are looked-after teenagers in care homes, society has let them down twice as social services fail to put in place the nurture and protection which was already absent in their home life.
When the Rochdale girls originally told people that they were being abused, there was no sense of urgency to protect them or investigate and prosecute the offenders. They were ignored, and for some, the abuse continued. The accusations are that the police didn’t act for fear of being called racist and the Crown Prosecution Service decided that abused young girls would not be ‘credible’ as witnesses. Failed by a dysfunctional family life and social services, they were then failed again by the police. That these girls were repetitively failed in such a miserable, petty-bureaucratic way is utterly heartbreaking.
Following the ruling, Michael Gove has asked Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, to produce recommendations on how to protect young girls in care from being preyed upon by men for sex. Unfortunately, Berelowitz has herself been less than forthcoming in accepting the fact that a problem in northern towns exists with regard to the cultural attitudes of some young Pakistani men towards young white girls. This is why Sayeeda’s interview was so important. Until Berelowitz accepts that fact, which she has yet to do publicly, her report to Michael Gove may not have provided recommendations which would be useful or creative in dealing with this very specific problem.
Sayeeda has laid the ground in terms of expectations for future action and has replaced the politically correct barrier for one of common sense. Having been let down by family, social services, the police and the CPS, the person now bravely speaking out for such girls, with a voice which carries weight and influence, is that of a Muslim woman, and there is a certain justice in that.