Home Secretary Suella Braverman has so far not apologised for her remarks, and demands that the PM clarify her statement have not elicited a response.—AFP
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has so far not apologised for her remarks, and demands that the PM clarify her statement have not elicited a response.—AFP

LONDON: A group of researchers and policy leads from universities across the UK on Thursday penned a joint letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braver­man, urging all politicians to “refrain from making partial, inaccurate or divisive claims” about child sexual abuse.

The remarks are a response to comments made by Ms Braverman last month in which she repeatedly spoke about “the predominance of British-Pakistani males who hold cultural values totally at odds with British values”.

In an interview to Sky News, she had said that British-Pakistani men “see women in a demeaned, illegitimate way, and pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach to the way we behave”.

She was referring to sexual abuse reports from Rotherham, which was rocked by a child sexual exploitation scandal in which five British Pakist­ani men were convicted of grooming, raping and exploiting young girls.

The new letter penned by university officials and academics points to these stereotypes and says, “Doing so undermines attempts to ensure policy-making is evidence-based, fair and inclusive.

“Many recent political announcements and accompanying media discussions have clearly fallen short in this regard, perpetuating misinformation, racism and division.

“Whatever the intention, stereotyping around child sexual abuse (racial or otherwise) poses considerable risks, not least to children”.

The letter said targeted action is needed to make children safer, including challenging the damaging ’myths and stereotypes.

“To this end, we urgently ask all politicians to refrain from making partial, inaccurate or divisive claims about child sexual abuse.”

It also states that misrepresenting the varied nature of child sexual abuse is dangerous. It inhibits timely recognition, hampers effective responses and weakens the societal fabric necessary to keep children safe.

“Policies which start from a basis of singling out one ‘type’ of abuse as more heinous and worthy of attention than any other are ineffective and unethical. Attempts to locate the problem of child sexual abuse (including child sexual exploitation) within a particular community, ‘type’ of perpetrator, or ‘type’ of victim, run counter to the extensive evidence base — including the Home Office’s own evidence…”

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2023

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