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Claims girls in Birmingham and West Midlands targeted for sexual exploitation despite pleas for help

2018 05 22

Sikh girls in Birmingham and the West Midlands were subjected to decades of abuse by grooming gangs despite pleas for help, a shock report claims.

And members of the Sikh community turned vigilante when the police and other authorities failed to act on their concerns, the authors of the study allege.

Entitled “The Religiously Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of Young Sikh Women Across the UK”, the report has echoes of the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.

The West Midlands girls are said to have been targeted by “fashionably-dressed adult Pakistani men” before being isolated from their families and mistreated by one or more abusers.

The authors say the research is not a “witch-hunt against any individual, community, culture or faith” but an attempt to understand the root causes of the issue, which they feel deserves the same national spotlight as the Rotherham scandal.

The study has been produced by the Sikh Mediation and Rehabilitation Team (SMART), an independent organisation, in conjunction with Sikh Youth UK.

Deepa Singh, a co-ordinator for Sikh Youth, said: “This is a victory for silent victims within the Sikh community who have been silenced by Government bodies whose cries for help were ignored.

“The truth is evidenced and it will now be for central government and local authorities to address the growing concern of continued targeted abuse of Sikh girls."

Concerns among the Sikh community over sexual abuse and exploitation go back more than 50 years, with victims continuing to surface, the report says.

The authors write: “The Sikh predicament is stated to involve perpetrators of principally Pakistani heritage targeting young female victims for abuse in both Sikh dominated areas as well as locations with a scattered Sikh presence.

“Taking advantage of parallels between Sikh and Pakistani cultures, offenders are alleged to have repeatedly exploited known cultural sensitivities to ostracise victims from their family and community.”

The authors accept sexual abuse is a taboo issue in the Sikh community but claim attempts to report the concerns to the police have “been met with cynicism and largely ignored”.

Tensions are said to have flared in Birmingham and Leicester as vigilantes took matters into their own hands, with a number of flashpoints over a period of at least 20-years.

In the West Midlands the report refers to a group called Shere Punjab, founded with the stated aim of protecting schoolchildren and rescuing girls who had fallen victim to child sexual exploitation.

“In both the Birmingham and Leicester incidences, Sikh community groups and activists vociferously assert that evidence pertaining to the sexual grooming of young Sikh females was collated and furnished to the police well in advance of any violence,” the authors write.

“The Sikh community allege that in the absence of police action, the community took the step of taking the law into their own hands.”

Grooming gangs based in Birmingham and Walsall operated across the West Midlands while those in Dudley targeted regions including Sandwell and the Black Country, according to the report.

The authors describe the modus operandi of the perpetrators, who are said to have mainly targeted victims in areas with schools.

“The pattern of offending would typically involve fashionably-dressed adult Pakistani men travelling in flamboyant vehicles to predominantly Sikh dominated areas and schools,” they say.

“One of the younger men would selectively approach girls using flattery, presents and intoxicants to form a relationship. Once snared, the victim would be systematically coerced into conflict with her family, strengthening the perpetrators hold over her.

"The circumstances would eventually, or in some cases immediately, progress to abuse by multiple perpetrators."

The final stages of abuse are cited as “rape and prostitution” with the victim suffering “severe mental deterioration, physical pain and even torture”.

Court cases and newspaper reports supporting the findings are included in the report, which is due to be released into the public domain tomorrow (Monday).

One example given is that of six men who abused a girl in Leicester, considered the first high-profile case of its kind involving a Sikh victim.

The gang were jailed for offences including facilitating child prostitution following their trial at the city’s crown court in September 2013.

The report, which is intended as a “preliminary investigation”, has been produced by SMART in conjunction with Birmingham-based Sikh Youth UK.

The study has received support from other activists and groups as well as Labour MPs Sarah Champion and Preet Gill.

The launch follows continued revelations about child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, in which 1,400 children are thought to have fallen victim to abuse over a 16-year period.

Supt Paul Drover from West Midlands Police’s Public Protection Unit, said: “We have invested a significant amount of resources into tackling sexual offences against children in recent years.

“We continue to raise the awareness of all of our staff to spot the signs and deal with the issues of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) which has seen significant cultural changes within the force.

“A MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) now exists in every local authority driving our multi- agency approach to the identification of abuse and neglect.

“As a result of these safeguarding hubs we expect to see an increase in reported crime.

“Tackling CSE and child sexual abuse is an ongoing challenge and one that requires us to work closely with partners and voluntary agencies to ensure we continue to protect the public and those vulnerable to such crimes."

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He added: “Unfortunately, CSE can take place in any culture, across all of society and in all communities.

“We would urge anyone with information in their local community to report it to us and we will always investigate.”

If you are - or know anyone who is - being sexually exploited, please call West Midlands Police on 101 at any time or via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk between 8am to midnight.

In an emergency, always dial 999.

If you would prefer to give information anonymously, you can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk 

Article from: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/sikh-girls-abused-grooming-gangs-15492360