Wednesday, 4 September 2013

BBC Inside Out Programme on Sikh Girls Being Groomed by Muslim Men

On Monday night I watched the BBC Inside Out programme on Sikh girls being groomed by Muslim men.  I don’t watch television, but first one cousin sent me a message to “Watch BBC 1 now”, then another cousin had posted “Check out Inside Out on BBC 1 now!!!” as her Facebook status and then my dad called me to tell me that I should watch it.  The contact from my cousin and father were because they were aware I was concerned about a Sikh friend’s daughter who is a minor and has been involved with a Muslim boy and there is cause for concern.  So, I found a repeat of the show online.

I don’t have any doubts that this type of grooming takes place; whether it is as pervasive as some of the people interviewed in the show believe, I cannot say.  But coming from the Sikh community, I honestly believe there is much that it can do to help their daughters if they experience this type of grooming and from even becoming victims of this in the first place.

In all of the stories told during the show, the young girls (all minors) were approached by boys they believed to be Sikh.  These young men showered the girls with gifts and attention and some sort of petting and sexual contact took place.  The girls were then blackmailed or drugged and plied with alcohol in order to coerce them to have sex with older men.  Now, I know if I had been one of those girls, coming from the same background as them, that firstly I should not have been even dating a guy, so no matter what this guy later did to me, I would feel that my parents would blame the initial contact on me; “Why did you go and see him?” and I should add here that my parents are extremely liberal compared to other Sikh parents; for these other girls their fears would be much worse.  So from that moment on, my fate was sealed; it is all my own fault.

I think Sikh parents in the UK need to understand that their daughters may want to date and see boys.  They must have an open dialogue about this with their daughters and place healthy boundaries on what is allowed and not allowed.  If they did this, not only would their girls not feel the need to sneak around behind their backs, putting themselves in this vulnerable position, but they would have an opportunity to meet the boy and this would be enough of a deterrent for the groomers.  Even if it got to the stage where the boy then tried to blackmail the girl, she would feel more confident in asking for help.

A man who had been part of a group of groomers explained that they targeted Sikh girls because they would not tell their parents and even if they did, their parents would not go to the police out of shame.  This notion of shame and honour within the Sikh community is what paints the targets on the backs of these girls in the first place.

I was also extremely shocked when they showed that some girls are shipped abroad by their families.  To be fair, the girl who had been sent to America did say she felt she was being given another chance at life there; why had she not felt that way with her family back in the UK?  But you have to wonder how those girls feel, being sent away like a dirty little secret.  I am aware through the experience of people that I know that some of these young girls can be forced into arranged marriages with some guy in India who wants to come to the UK and is all for a quick wedding, or even worse, two other girls I know were sent to relatives in India when their parents felt their behaviour was unacceptable (truancy, going out – normal teenage stuff) and those girls were then sexually abused by their relatives, even though one of the girls was just a minor at that time.

It is not enough to just point your finger at Muslim men, or men from any other religious or ethnic group, and paint them as an evil threat to be avoided.  It is our responsibility to make our children feel secure enough in their interactions with the opposite sex that they are less vulnerable to being targeted and if the worst does happen, make them feel secure and comfortable enough to come to us and tell us they are being abused.

My worst nightmare is that Sikh parents have watched that video and have just given their daughters strict warnings to stay away from boys!  I’d hope that they would be able to discuss the programme with their daughters; perhaps even watch it with their girls and make them aware that these things can happen and that no matter what happens, they can come to their parents and tell them anything and the girls do not have to worry about being dispatched abroad.

It made me very sad to hear that one couple who did try to do everything that they could to get the police involved did not receive any help, but that is a post for another day.  Love your children more than fear of what others will think and say; after all, the notion of shame and honour is based on these fears.

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