Asian victims of child sexual exploitation who have not yet come forward have been urged to speak up by the leader of the British Muslim Youth in Sheffield.
Vakas Hussain told a community meeting held in Nether Edge to discuss the impact of the Rotherham scandal that there are more child sex abuse victims out there than the 1,400 girls mentioned in the Jay Report, but that Asian girls do not speak out because of cultural issues.
Speaking at the meeting of taxi drivers and key community figures in Sheffield, he urged Asian girls who have been abused to speak up, with the support of the community, after a meeting held in Rotherham last week was set up to discuss the issue.
He said: “It’s difficult for all women who have been exploited to speak out. But it is 10, 15 times harder if you are of Asian - not just Pakistani - but also subcontinental, West Indian, Bangladesh...because there’s a cultural idea that if a young girl is sexually exploited, she’s not worth any marriage material later in life, so therefore it’s better for the girl to stay quiet so she can get married and have a happy life later on, than speak out and seek justice.
“So what you’ll find is that Asian girls just don’t speak about it, and the families know it’s wrong, but they don’t speak about it. So this meeting last Thursday in Rotherham was about starting to break that cultural barrier, and starting to talk about it.
“Nobody is saying that this is going to change overnight, we are talking about decades’ worth of cultural orthodoxy, but the only way you do it is by talking about it and that’s what we started in Rotherham.
“I would guess there’s a significant amount that weren’t included in the Jay report that hopefully will come out in the near future, but they need support for that to happen.”
He went on to stress the dangers of ‘demonising’ the Pakistani Muslim community and taxi drivers.
He added: “When they Jay report came out we were quite clear we shouldn’t be talking about this on racial or religious grounds. Because the very first thing that happens when you demonise, or stigmatise, one particular race or ethnicity, the shutters come down. You go on the defensive.
“In Rotherham, we can’t deny, the vast majority of perpetrators were Pakistani. But when you demonise a whole community for the actions of a minority you get them to automatically put the shutters down and they stop engaging with you.
“You can’t afford to do that. The issue in the media - we can’t control the media, even politicians can’t control the media.
“But it’s important to have a say. So if someone in the media is saying something you don’t agree with. ring up, challenge them. By staying quiet you are allowing that narrative to become the prevailing orthodoxy. and once it does you are only making things far more difficult for yourself.
“Secondly, I think education is very important. It’s not just educating the young children, it’s also the general public.”
“The only way to deal with an issue is if you deal with it head on. You have to accept that there’s an issue in Rotherham. I’m pleased to say we’ve accepted that there’s an issue and we’re determined to move forward. We need all the help we can and if the people of Sheffield want to come and support us.
“It has been highlighted today that this scourge we have seen is across the country and we need to pull together if we are to deal with child abuse.
A taxi driver speaking at the meeting added: “Stop making every taxi driver a suspect. No taxi driver is more likely to be a rapist or a groomer than any other individual. It’s not your trade that makes you who you are it’s your mindset. I think we have to be careful in the way we speak about it.
“We don’t want to make every taxi driver a suspect who has to prove themselves not to be a groomer or a rapist.”
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