Rotherham: A National Shame!

15 Sep 2014
15 September 2014

Growing up in apartheid South Africa, I never really trusted the police, and I’m sure most people of colour felt this way because it seemed the cops were out to make the life of the average non-white South African as miserable as possible. When I moved to England, however, I realized the police were in place to protect citizens and slowly my attitude changed.

Having said this, Professor Alexis Jay’s independent report on children in care in the town of Rotherham in north England has killed whatever trust I had built up. She found that an estimated 1,400 children were sexually exploited and trafficked between 1997 and 2013, and the police did nothing- despite receiving enough evidence and repeated complaints.

It’s also clear that what was happening to these children was not kept a secret. Everyone who needed to be aware that children were being abused and trafficked knew about it. These were all people with the power to stop the exploitation, but didn’t.

According to Professor Jay’s report, there were three other publications in 2002, 2003 and 2006 that provided “stark evidence” to the police and council. The first of these was suppressed, which the report said had led to suggestions of a cover-up, while the other two were ignored.

I find it hard to understand why “two cases where the fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene”.

Are we really to be punished for protecting our children? Also, if the people in care failed to save these girls from being exploited, how can they expect to save them the illnesses associated with sexual abuse? Dozens of studies show that it could lead to incalculable mental risks later in life, of which suicidal thoughts, PTSD and depression are just some.

The police have now decided to investigate what went wrong and find out how and why these 1,400 (or more) children were disregarded. Having dealt with the police in this country personally, I’ve found that their internal investigations system is flawed. It’s police investigating police, how does that work?

Why were the police not interested when a father alerted them to the fact that his under-age daughter was being used essentially as a sex slave? This is not just the fault of the police, of course, these children have also been let down by the council. It’s the moral obligation of everyone to uphold the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and especially so the bodies that have been put in place to protect vulnerable children.

According to Article 34 of the convention- which was signed by Britain in April 1990 and ratified in December 1991:

States Parties undertake to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. For these purposes, States Parties shall in particular take all appropriate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent:

(a) The inducement or coercion of a child to engage in any unlawful sexual activity;

(b) The exploitative use of children in prostitution or other unlawful sexual practices;

(c) The exploitative use of children in pornographic performances and materials.

Unfortunately, despite the sexual and violent brutalities committed against children as young as 11, the debate has turned to one of the fear of racism within civil bodies, because the men were mostly of Pakistani heritage and their victims were white children. Why are we overlooking that more than a thousand children had to give up their childhood to sexual depravities on the whim of sick, baseless individuals- whatever their race?

Also, I feel I must point out that paedophiles do not generally target victims based on their colour, but rather on how easy it is to gain access to them. This is why these girls were targeted- they were in care and therefore defenseless and susceptible.

Secondly, many within the British media seem to neglect other parts of Professor Jay’s report, which points out that “The UK Muslim Women’s Network produced a report on Child Sexual Exploitation in September 2013, which drew on 35 case studies of women from across the UK who were victims, the majority of whom were Muslim

This in itself proves that the debate we should be having is not whether these crimes were hidden because most of the perpetrators were of Asian heritage but rather why these children were let down by the system that was built to protect them? And why they were ignored when they brought their abuse to light?

It is extremely irresponsible to suggest that the abusers were let off the radar because of their race? Come on now, we’re all a bit smarter than that. These guys were let off, because the police were not interested and the council were too busy.

Recent high profile cases in the UK also rubbishes this racism theory; for example, in 2012, a gang of men in the town of Rochdale were found to be grooming and sexually abusing dozens of young girls, and they were found and put away by Nazir Afzal, a prosecutor who is British of Pakistani heritage. He’s since written a column in the British newspaper The Daily Mail saying he has been accused of racism against his own community. Mr Afzal also admits in his article that:

‘There is, sadly, no community where women and girls are not at risk from sexual predators. The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) has prosecuted people from over 25 countries. Abusers are of all nationalities, ethnicities and ages, though the vast majority are white British males.”

This and other high-profile cases concerning minorities like that of the teenager Shafilea Ahmed; a girl of Pakistani heritage whose parents were put away for life for her murder, proves that the system really isn’t afraid to take on crimes from within ethnic communities

Also, in recently released figures by the House of Commons, almost 8 % of offenders in British prisons are Asian or Asian British, which almost mirrors the national demographic. Surely, if authorities had an agenda to protect people because of their race, then there would be less ethnic minorities in prison?

The fact is the police spent too much time trying to discredit the claims of abuse rather than find the perpetrators. When I moved to Britain in 2001, I thought I was moving to the progressive leader of the commonwealth, defender of democracy and protector of the innocent and vulnerable. The fact this is allowed to happen on our doorstep over and over again, should make every Briton hang their head in shame. The cases in Professor Jay’s report are just some we are aware of, how many do we not know about?

What really happened in Rotherham was a case of neglect and incompetence on the part of the police and a blatant disregard for the children’s rights to be protected by the State. And while we argue the issue of racism, the perpetrators are left to roam free and continue their trail of trafficking, abuse and cruelty against vulnerable families.