Saturday 8 January 2011

Wives or whores? Thoughts on 'grooming'....


It is a sensitive issue, one that contains more elephant traps for politicians than almost any other issue but which I know will stick in the minds of those I represent. And, in the end, the voters decide what is, or isn’t, important. I refer to the matter of ‘grooming’ (as the papers like to put it) of mostly white girls by ‘gangs’ of young Asian men.

Following from a case in Derby – and referring to an earlier case in Keighley – we are expected to extrapolate to a conclusion that, in every Northern town, there is at least one gang of young Asians organising sex parties for each other’s entertainment at which these groomed young girls feature. In the Derby case:

Three trials held under reporting restrictions last year heard how the nine-strong gang cruised around Derby in a BMW or a Range Rover – which Saddique referred to as the ‘Rape Rover’ – looking for vulnerable young girls.

They were then offered rides in the car to ‘link and chill’ with the men, plied with vodka stored under the seats and taken to parks, hotel rooms or houses, where they were sometimes offered cocaine before being pressured into sex.

Now this mirrors quite closely the nature of the earlier Keighley case – which resulted in convictions as well – where the coincidence of the debate with elections led to Channel 4 pulling a documentary (on the police’s request) on the issue after the BNP described it as a ‘party political broadcast’.

...the documentary examined the area of child abuse known as "grooming". It reported that white girls as young as 11 were being sexually abused by Asian men who encouraged their dependency on drugs over a period of time.

Yet again the issue has become political and, as usual, mainstream politicians are struggling to frame the debate in our comfort zone. Some, like Jack Straw, have stepped as close to the edge of that zone as they dare:

Mr Straw said: "Pakistanis, let's be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders' wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders. But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men ... who target vulnerable young white girls.

"We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way."

Now I have two problems with this statement – why are we shifting the responsibility for addressing the problem from the mainstream authorities to the “Pakistani community”? And why do we carry on believing the lies of bearded (and the occasionally unbearded) community leaders that they can speak with authority on behalf of two million and more people? But at least Jack Straw is trying to frame the debate in asking why a few young, mostly Pakistani men have done this ‘grooming’. 

At the heart of all this isn’t race or religion but attitudes to women and especially the view that women fall into two categories – wives or whores. This is an attitude common among young Asian men but we are kidding ourselves if we think the cultural problem is wholly imported or even restricted to Pakistanis. What doesn’t help is that when someone says to the Asian community in Derby or Keighley that they have a problem, the first response of that community's representatives is denial – usually followed by allegations of racism or of “fuelling the BNP”.

The problem is that these cases do seem to involve a disproportionate number of young Asians – so either the police are letting white, afro-caribbean or mixed race gangs off the hook or else it really is a type of crime associated with young Asian men.  And an exploitative, cruel and oppressive attitude to women – seeing girls as sex toys – sits at the heart of the problem.

For many of us - including plenty of Pakistani men - adopting such an attitude would result in short shrift but in all communities there are men passing on the evil doctrine that women are mere chattels fit only for making babies, feeding men and cleaning house – unless they’re whores when they just provide sex. 

So long as some communities – and this includes parts of the Pakistani community – define women by role rather than as individuals, these problems will persist. In the meantime we should support the efforts of police and social workers to deal with men like those found guilty of these offences in Derby and Keighley.

But we have to cut out the political correctness. If in Bradford the problem is with Asian men – we should say so. I do not become a rapist because another white man is a rapist. And my Asian friends and neighbours don’t become ‘groomers of young girls’ because some other Asian men have committed that crime. And I’m pretty sure that most of the Asian men I know would like to see these rapists and paedophiles behind bars – whatever colour or creed they might be.

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