Former Home Secretary Jack Straw has caused controversy after saying that there was a specific problem with Pakistani men in Britain who target young white girls for sexual abuse.
Former Home Secretary Jack Straw caused controversy when he commented on a case involving two Asian men who subjected young white girls to sexual assault and rape. Straw said that some Pakistani men in Britain targeted young white girls as if they are “easy meat”, and urged the community to address what he referred to as “…the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way”. (Belfast Telegraph: 8 January, 2011)
Twenty-seven year old Abid Mohammed Saddique was jailed for 11 years and 28 year old Mohammed Romaan Liaqat was jailed for 8 years for targeting young girls in the Derby area between 12 and 18 to groom for sex.
Readers should note that the two men who operated within a gang targeted mostly young white girls but also abused a few Asian and mixed-race girls as well. Also note that a white male was part of the gang. (Yasmin Alibhai Brown: The Independent: Monday, 29 November, 2010)
Straw did stress that he was not stating that sexual abuse was a crime only committed by Pakistani men. He made an effort to say that the prisons were predominately filled with white sexual offenders, but he felt this issue needed to be addressed.
Whether Straw raised this issue as a genuine concern regarding the issue of child abuse is debatable. What can be said is that British media have been focusing their headlines on crimes involving Muslims and the Muslim community in general. Whether it is ‘honour killings’, a debate about Muslim women wearing the hijab, or alleged terrorist plots, the British media almost on a daily level has delivered a daily diet of anti-Islam or anti-Muslim news reports.
Straw surely knew that his comments would be taken up by the media giving him cheap publicity at the expense of an entire Muslim community being stereotyped by far-right groups and the public in general.
Straw’s reference regarding the Asian perpetrators of this child abuse ring as seeing young white girls as “easy meat” raises an important point on this issue. Child sex offenders target vulnerable children to corrupt and abuse. These Asian men did not target young white girls because of their race, but because they saw them as the most vulnerable and easy group to abuse. Why would child sex offenders target young girls who were hard to influence or get? It makes no sense.
Child sexual tourism: A Western problem
The same pattern can be seen when it comes to child sexual tourism. According to End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), a network of organisations and individuals working together for the elimination of child prostitution, child pornography and trafficking of children for sexual purposes, in an article titled, ‘The Dark Side of Sex Tourism’, By David Whitley, “Sex offenders are going to countries all over the world. They are increasingly targeting places in which they don’t think they’ll get caught”.
Child sex tourism involves someone travelling abroad for the purposes of engaging in sexual activities with children, and child sex tourism according to ECPAT is on the rise in poor countries all over the world.
Christine Beddoe, the director of the UK branch of ECPAT said in the article that “Some of the victims are child prostitutes, some are essentially slaves and others are “groomed” by rich Westerners posing as good Samaritans.”
She also said “In areas where child sex tourism is rife, single white Western males can automatically be looked-upon with suspicion”.
Beddoe mentions how many child sex offenders target poorly funded third world orphanages because they lack the resources to carry out background checks on foreign workers.
Just as with Mohammed Saddique and Romaan Liaqat, white child sex offenders target vulnerable children that they see as ‘easy’, in poor countries and use their money to subvert local laws regarding sex with children.
In a theme paper written in 1996 titled ‘Tourism and Children in Prostitution’, by Martin Staebler, he explains the behaviour of Western child sex tourists who perceive having sex with children in other countries as acceptable within that culture. Some even justify their behaviour by saying that they are helping poor children survive with the money they give them. He said:
“Tourism does not only change behaviour, it can also reinforce prejudice. Visitors who hold strong views, whether explicit or obscure, about the inferiority of people other than their own usually have their racist attitudes reinforced in foreign countries. They see what they want to see. Such people have no scruples about exploiting other persons because they consider them to be inferior.”
“The experience of economic superiority in a poorer country tempts some visitors to sexually exploit and abuse local people.” (p.2)
Staebler also said, “…one of the most important reasons why child sex exploitation is taking place among tourists is because the children are readily available. The ease with which tourists in some countries can obtain a child as a sexual partner is, in itself, a powerful incentive for some to try the novelty of a child sex partner.” This supports the argument that child sexual offenders will prey on the most vulnerable, which is what white child sexual offenders are doing to children in poor countries.
Straw was wrong to racialise this news story without providing a proper explanation to why mostly young white girls were targeted. From the evidence in this article they were targeted because they were ‘readily available’ just as white child offenders travel abroad to target children who they perceive as ‘readily available’.
No doubt the far-right will have a field day with Jack Straw’s comments and the news story, and this issue will cease to be about child sexual offenders targeting young children, and turn into Muslim men targeting young white girls. People will probably forget that a white male was part of the gang, and that a few Asian and mixed race girls were also abused. Racialising child abuse does the issue a gross injustice and this is what Jack Straw has done.
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