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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have been warned to avoid stigmatizing British Pakistanis and Muslims following controversial comments ahead of the unveiling of a new taskforce to tackle sexual abuse, The Independent reported on Monday.
Braverman last week said high-profile cases of sexual grooming gangs, which operate across the UK, are primarily composed of “groups of men, almost all British Pakistani.”
The government has pledged a slew of new measures to crack down on grooming gangs, but the opposition Labour Party, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and academics have warned the home secretary to avoid singling out ethnic or religious groups.
When unveiling the latest measures, Sunak pledged to avoid “political correctness” regarding ethnicity while tackling grooming gangs.
The new taskforce aims to bring together a range of law enforcement groups to target sexual predators. Ethnic data will be used as part of police investigations into grooming gang cases.
However, NSPCC CEO Sir Peter Wanless told the BBC that the gangs, as well as sexual predators, “do not just come from one background.”
He warned the government to avoid “creating other blind spots” by “raising an issue such as race.”
Sabah Kaiser, the ethnic minority ambassador for the independent inquiry into child abuse, said it is “very, very dangerous for the government to turn child sexual abuse into a matter of color.”
On Sunday, Braverman accused Labour councillors of failing to take action on grooming gangs over fears of being branded as racist.
In response to her comments, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “The vast majority of sexual abuse cases do not involve those of ethnic minorities and so I am all for clamping down on any kind of case, but if we are going to be serious, we have to be honest about what the overlook is.”
He added: “Ethnicity is important and nothing should get in the way of investigating and prosecuting child sexual exploitation. But if you look at the overall figure that is, you know, a relatively small element of it.”
Academics including Ella Cockbain, an associate professor at University College London, also condemned Braverman’s remarks.
Cockbain told BBC Radio 4 that Braverman “is choosing to mainstream hard-right talking points, and to push discredited stereotypes. That is really dangerous and reductive. It allows other offenders to get away with abuse.”
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, accused the government of failing child sexual abuse victims.
She said: “Only 11 percent of child sexual abuse cases ends with a charge — down from 32 percent seven years ago — and the court delays have got far worse with victims waiting years for justice.”
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