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Nazir Afzal: Rotherham scandal is about male power, not ethnicity

Nazir Afzal, the CPS’s lead on child sexual abuse, suggests that the victims were targeted due to their vulnerability, and not because they were white.

A teenage girl, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse and alleged grooming, poses in Rotherham (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
A teenage girl, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse and alleged grooming, poses in Rotherham (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

In light of the recent Rotherham Scandal, Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on child sexual abuse and violence against women and girls, suggests that the media hysteria about the perpetrators’ ethnicity is misleading.

Some residents proposed that diffidence around confronting the racial aspects of the abuse - the fact that the majority of the perpetrators were men of Pakistani descent – caused authorities to turn a blind eye. This led Home Secretary Theresa May to announce in parliament that the government would consider specifically investigating whether “institutionalized political correctness" – that is, the fear of being labeled racist - could also be to blame for why the sex abuse cases were inadequately dealt with.

Afzal suggests taking a more nationwide perspective on the issue and remains skeptical about whether a culture of “political correctness”, as alluded to in the report, caused the authorities to ignore the child abuse accusations.

In an interview with the Guardian he says:

So I know that the vast majority of offenders are British white male. We have come across cases all over the country and the ethnicity of the perpetrators varies depending on where you are … It is not the abusers’ race that defines them. It is their attitude to women that defines them.”

“I don’t want to play it down. The ethnicity of these perpetrators is what it is. It is a matter of fact. It is an issue that has to be addressed by the state, and the authorities and the community – but it’s important to contextualise this”

He explains that the media attention devoted to child abuse is inconsistent and  goes on to describe his experience working with the legal team on the Rochdale grooming case, back in 2012, which also involved Asian male perpetrators:

 A few weeks after the Rochdale case, we dealt with a case of 10 white men in North Yorkshire who had been abusing young girls, and they were all convicted and they got long sentences. It didn’t get the level of coverage”

Afzal proposes a practical explanation for involvement of Asian men in grooming scandals, and suggests that the victims were targeted due to their vulnerability, and not because they were white. Their vulnerability caused them to seek out “warmth, love, transport, mind-numbing substances, drugs, alcohol and food.” He explains:

Who offers those things? In certain parts of the country, the place they go is the night-time economy. Where you have Pakistani men, Asian men, disproportionately employed in the night-time economy, they are going to be more involved in this kind of activity than perhaps white men are. We keep hearing people talk about a problem in the north and the Midlands, and that’s where you have lots of minicab drivers, lots of people employed in takeaways, from that kind of background. If you have a preponderance of Asians working in those fields, some of that number, a very small number of those people, will take advantage of the girls who have moved into their sphere of influence. It’s tragic.”

“There is no religious basis for this. These men were not religious. Islam says that alcohol, drugs, rape and abuse are all forbidden, yet these men were surrounded by all of these things. So how can anyone say that these men were driven by their religion to do this kind of thing?

“They were doing this horrible, terrible stuff, because of the fact that they are men. That’s sadly what the driver is here. This is about male power. These young girls have been manipulated and abused because they were easy prey for evil men.”