THE BLOG
23/09/2015 12:25 BST | Updated 22/09/2016 06:12 BST

Tougher Sentence for Sex Abuse of Asian Girl Has Been Wrongly Interpreted

Judge Sally Cahill gave paedophile Jamal Muhammed Raheem Ul Nasir a tougher sentence than normal because she factored in the Asian background of the victim and the appeal judge agreed with the ruling. What did the judges actually mean when considering the ethnicity of the victim? It appears that most people have wrongly interpreted this to mean that Asian girls suffer more than White girls, which has, not surprisingly, caused outrage.

It's unfair to compare the suffering of victims because the impact of sexual abuse is life long and they will be affected in different ways depending on their background and particular vulnerabilities exploited in the first place. Sexual predators tend to groom girls who are unlikely to disclose their abuse. This may mean (although this is not always the case) targeting girls from dysfunctional families, who are in care, have a history of abuse or a learning disability. However, Asian girls also have a vulnerability specifically linked to their cultural background, which is that of 'shame and honour.' Offenders control Asian girls through blackmail by threatening to expose the abuse to their families. Unfortunately in Asian communities there is a tendency to blame the victims instead of the offenders, which means disclosure can result in girls being shunned or subjected to honour based violence or forced marriage.

So when punishing offenders, the judge has the power to increase the prison sentence if 'aggravating factors' exist that make the crime worse. New sentencing guidelines came into force in April 2014. New changes included broadening the range of aggravating factors, including giving proper consideration to the vulnerability of the victim, and adding a new aggravating factor of controlling victims by threatening to expose the abuse to family or others. Given these new guidelines the Judge Sally Cahill rightly considered the aggravating factors that applied specifically to the victim abused by Ul Nasir. In this case it was the factors linked to her cultural background, which led to the increased sentence. This should not be confused with her being considered to have suffered more than other victims whether White or not. In another case four Rochdale men were convicted of grooming a teenage girl and were given lengthy sentences because the victim was from a broken home and been in care, which were considered as aggravating factors. It is important to focus on the bravery of these victims who come forward. By reliving their horrific ordeals they not only hold evil men accountable for their crimes but also stopp them from abusing others. So when judges give the toughest sentences possible to pedophiles, it should be welcomed not criticised.

The fact that Asian victims of abuse are finally coming forward is something that has also been overlooked in this debate over the prison sentence. In another case, a teenage Muslim girl explained how gangs of men in Yorkshire had groomed and abused her. Lubna (not her real name) is fortunate that her father has been helping her get her life back to together. Cases like these are rare where Asian parents support their daughters as we found at the Muslim Women's Network UK when we conducted research which led to the report, Unheard Voices: Sexual Exploitation of Asian Girls and Young Women. Victims included girls from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Afghani, and Sikh backgrounds. We uncovered the most horrific cases of abuse and when families found out the girls were often revictimised. Farah's abuse began when she was 12 years old. She was passed around for two years by a large network of men, which involved gang rapes by up to 15 men and torture. Parveen was also passed around by a group of when she was 12 years old. Eventually when Parveen's family found out, they blamed her and forced her to have a hymen repair surgery before forcing her into a marriage. Since the launch of the report many others have come forward to share stories of their ordeals including one woman who was groomed 40 years ago by a family member who took her to parks and forests so his friends could also rape her.

It is clear that all children are at risk of sexual exploitation. Pedophiles will target the most vulnerable and the most accessible in society - such evil people do not have respect for women and girls of any ethnic or religious background.