EXPLOITED: Sikh girls have been targeted by grooming gangs, a new report has claimed

SEXUAL abuse directed at young Sikh girls by UK grooming gangs has been “recklessly
ignored” by the police, a new report has claimed.

The study, released by the Sikh Mediation and Rehabilitation Team charity, has alleged police have been reluctant to investigate abuse aimed at Asian victims due to “political correctness”.

According to the report Religiously Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of Young Sikh Women Across the UK, the group found evidence which demonstrated a history of mostly British-Pakistani grooming gangs targeting young Sikh females for over five decades.

It claimed Sikh girls would be groomed by “fashionably-dressed adult Pakistani men travelling in flamboyant vehicles to predominantly Sikh-dominated areas and schools”.

The account also highlighted a consistent “disinterest” by the police when reports were made by Sikh community leaders in the West Midlands.

Members of the Sikh Mediation and Rehabilitation Team outside the Home Office with the report

“With the emergence of multiple similar cases across the UK,” the report said. “The perceived failure to act has now been attributed to the ‘political correctness’ that inhibited
authorities and agencies from addressing the racial and cultural dimensions understood as causative factors behind the abuse.”

A number of primarily British Asian grooming gangs have been imprisoned in recent years, including 20 men who were sentenced last month after being found guilty of raping and abusing young girls in Huddersfield.

The convictions follow a similar pattern of large-scale exploitation of victims, including by groups of Asian men.

Similar cases have emerged in several other British towns such as Rotherham, Newcastle, Rochdale and Telford.

In response to the report, which was reportedly presented to the Home Office last month by members of the charity, Labour MP Sarah Champion has demanded an investigation.

The Rotherham MP, who was caught up in controversy back in August when she wrote an article that said the UK has a problem with “British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls,” said that she was shocked by the abuse claims.

“When I started speaking to Sikh women, I could not believe how widespread the grooming
and abuse was – and that this has been going on for decades,” Champion said.

“We need to speak of the abuse of Sikh girls to take it out of the shadows and make sure the authorities take it seriously.”

Labour MP Sarah Champion has demanded an investigation into the claims

The former shadow secretary for women and equalities added: “There needs to be a full investigation into the systematic abuse of Sikh girls.”

The report highlighted the history of abuse in Sikh communities had been happening for decades, despite the level of grooming gangs in the UK only coming to public attention in recent years, with some Sikh community leaders claiming the problem initially started in the 1960s.

Sunny Angel, 40, is a survivor of abuse. Groomed and tortured by an older man when she was 17, she was eventually forced into marriage as a punishment to “hide the shame [she] was to [her] family.”

In response to the report, she urged both victims and survivors to come forward.

“We need to provide a ‘safe place’ for our loved ones to ‘heal’ from any trauma,” she told Eastern Eye. “We also need to work with the police, not against them if we are looking for physical justice.”

However, a campaigner has criticised the report – which was only made available to the media, several government bodies and representatives and Sikh community leaders, before it goes public next Monday (3) – and the charity’s approach to raising awareness of the issue.

Shaista Gohir, the Muslim Women’s Network (MWN) chair, referred to her organisations own
research which claimed Muslim and Pakistani girls had also been groomed for decades.

A 2013 report by MWN titled Unheard Voices showed that Asian offenders consider Asian
girls and young women a “less risky option” as they were less likely to report the abuse because of “shame and dishonour that was purposefully exploited.”

It also found that when families became aware of the abuse their children had suffered, they were often subjected to being re-victimised – being disowned, forced into marriage or forced to have hymen repair surgery.

The report found the victims were of Afghani, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani backgrounds. Two thirds were of Pakistani background.

Members of a grooming gang in Newcastle were convicted of charges related to sexual exploitation of children last year

“The fact that Sikh organisations are aware of our research and also blatantly ignoring it
shows that they are not really concerned about addressing the issue of safeguarding all children but are more interested in politicising the issue,” Gohir told Eastern Eye.

“In our report we also mentioned the grooming of Sikh girls. So why are they deliberately ignoring Muslim and Pakistani girls?

“They are doing exactly what they accuse others of doing, selectively highlighting some victims while ignoring others, which is dangerous and unprofessional.”

She added charities should want to work across communities and protect all children.

“We should equally tackle all types of sexual abuse not only sexual abuse by gangs – all sexual abuse is abhorrent, and all perpetrators should be held accountable and reported,” Gohir stressed.

In response to the claims made in the report, a home office spokesperson told Eastern Eye:
“Child sexual abuse has been declared a national threat and the government is investing millions to enable officers to actively seek out and bring offenders to justice.

“Group-based child sexual exploitation is a complex issue and the government is working to improve our understanding of how to prevent this heinous crime.”

In response to the report, Detective Chief Superintendent Scott Hall, head of Northumbria Police’s Safeguarding Department, said the force took all reports of sexual abuse “extremely seriously”.

“Following the conclusion of our high profile investigation into child sexual exploitation in Newcastle, a serious case review found the Force was ‘not influenced by lack of concern or interest, misplaced fears about political correctness or fear of being seen as racist’,” he said. “We want any victim of sexual offences to know that they will receive support from specially trained detectives regardless of their background. If you come forward and speak to police then you will be treated with compassion and respect – don’t suffer in silence.”

When contacted by Eastern Eye, South Yorkshire Police refused to comment on the allegations until the full report is available for public viewing next week.