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MEND STATEMENT: Suella Braverman and the “Pakistani Grooming Gangs” Narrative

MEND STATEMENT: Suella Braverman and the “Pakistani Grooming Gangs” Narrative

Categories: Latest News

Monday April 03 2023

Recently, the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, announced her intentions to crack down on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). In doing so, Ms Braverman rehashed the largely discredited and contentious phrase “Pakistani grooming gangs”.

Over recent decades, several high-profile cases have highlighted the continued prevalence of CSE. These include cases from a range of contexts, including the entertainment industry, the socio-political elite, and in small towns and cities. The idea of “Pakistani grooming gangs”, often interchangeably with “Muslim/Asian grooming gangs”, has become a staple of media narratives surrounding CSE. Academics experts Dr Ella Cockbain and Dr Waqas Tufail have challenged the concept as built on poor research and often open xenophobia. Despite this it has repeatedly been used by politicians, journalists, and think tanks to create alarmism around Muslims and Asians, and perpetuate the ‘sex grooming predatory Pakistani Muslim’ stereotype.

In October 2018, in reaction to the reports of 20 men arrested in Huddersfield as part of a grooming ring targeting young girls, former Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted about “sick, Asian paedophiles”. This reinforced allegations by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion that “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”. In the year prior, a report by the now defunct think tank Quilliam claimed that Asian men accounted for 84% of grooming gang attacks since 2005. However, a report published by the Home Office (Ms Braverman’s own department),  in 2020 noted that most group based CSE offenders are white men under the age of 30, thus countering the myth of Muslim/Asian grooming gangs.

MEND supports the aim of tackling the heinous crimes of CSE and better supporting the victims, but it needs to be done sensitively, without framing it as an ethno-religious issue, and thereby maligning a whole minority community. We thus call upon government ministers, politicians and journalists to stop engaging in dog-whistle politics and cease using the terms ‘Pakistani’, ‘Muslim’ or ‘Asian grooming gangs’. We should focus on the perpetrators of such heinous crimes, whatever their skin colour, race or religion.


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