Young Asian girls are the unseen victims of sexual grooming gangs and have been consistently overlooked by the authorities who are "too focussed" on the abuse of white girls by Asian gangs, a new study has found.
Research published today by the Muslim Women's Network UK reveals that Asian girls are more vulnerable because cultural norms mean that girls are often too scared or ashamed to report abuse to police, social services or even to members of their own community.
The report, titled ‘Unheard Voices: The Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women,’ is based on 35 case studies from across England submitted in a call for evidence.
The majority of victims interviewed for the report were aged between 13 - 14 and almost two thirds of British Pakistani heritage.
The report found that offenders were most often from the same ethnic background as the victim and in a majority of cases perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage.
86% of the cases involved men operating in groups, with some involving online grooming.
“This report challenges the stereotype that child sexual exploitation is a racial crime in which Asian offenders target White girls only", said Shaista Gohir, Chair of MWNUK and author of the report.
"The findings indicate that Asian girls are even more vulnerable than White girls to exploitation by Asian predators - they are considered a ‘less risky’ option because they are less likely to report abuse due to shame and dishonour.”
Mr Gohir also said that communities had a responsibility to not "sweep abuse under the carpet".
"Communities under the spotlight must accept they too have networks of paedophiles operating among them. Silence in the name of avoiding shame and preserving honour is so powerful that it is allowing men to continue operating with impunity and further fueling sexual violence against girls and women.”
The majority of child-sex offenders in Britain are white men, but recent cases in Rotherham, Derby and Oxford featured groups of Asian men grooming vulnerable white girls.
According to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, in 2012 97% of identified victims were white, but the centre recognised victims were likely to be reluctant to report abuse.
A spokesman told The Guardian: "Stereotyping victims or offenders is inaccurate and creates unnecessary risks – this report illustrates this point clearly."
Recent reports have suggested that Sikh girls have also been targeted by mainly Muslim gangs, but Saidah Sultana, a Muslim convert who works with vulnerable girls in Birmingham, said common misconceptions about Asian girls put them more at risk.
"Muslim girls aren't untouchable: people have a perception that all young Muslim girls are locked up at home," she said.
"Young Muslim girls are like anyone else: if they want to go out, they can find a way out."BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS