Minor British Sikh girls sexually abused by gangs of Asian men who befriend them over a period of time usually do not report the crime to authorities, according to a new investigation by the BBC.
The probe found that in many cases, the men deceive the girls into believing they are Sikh to gain their trust. "Desperate to hide their secret for fear of bringing shame to their families, girls are often forced to leave home," the BBC’s ‘Inside Out’ programme reported.
Reporter Chris Rogers travelled to a remote part of the United States to meet a 16-year-old British Sikh girl who was "groomed" and sexually abused over a period of time by a Muslim gang. She is one of at least a dozen British Sikh girls living abroad to hide their secret.
The Sikh Awareness Society, UK -- a charity that focuses on family welfare -- claimed it has investigated over 200 reports of child sexual grooming in Britain over the past five years. However, there are no official statistics to support this claim, because incidents of sexual abuse involving Sikh minors are rarely reported to the authorities.
"Grooming" refers to actions undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a minor in order to exploit the person for sex or labour.
Last week, six men -- including two of Indian origin -- were jailed at Leicester Crown Court for offences including facilitating child prostitution of a Sikh girl. The convictions are being heralded as a legal landmark because it is the first high-profile case involving a Sikh victim of sexual abuse that has led to convictions in the UK, BBC reported.
Bharat Modhwadia, 25, was jailed for 16 months for paying for the sexual services of a child, inciting child pornography and trafficking the girl by driving her to a location for sex, while 37-year-old Chandresh Mistry was jailed for eight months for attempting to pay for the sexual services of a child. The other four men, aged between 20 and 39, were jailed for periods ranging from eight months to five years.
"While it is fair to say that none of the defendants played any part in her decision to prostitute herself, it is equally true to say that anyone meeting her would immediately have realised that this was a vulnerable 16-year-old girl from a good Sikh family, who was embarking upon a disastrous course of action," Judge Michael Pert said in his judgement.
According to Detective Superintendent David Sandall of Leicestershire Police, sexual abuse remains severely under-reported among "faith-based communities". He said, "We want more victims to come forward because we are here to help."
The reason Sikhs rarely reveal incidents of abuse to the authorities has been linked to the strong sense of family honour within the community. "Our community is very honour-based. The majority of parents just want to shut up as if nothing has happened because they know that a girl who is tarnished with this kind of thing will never actually get married," explained Mohan Singh of SAS.
The ‘Inside Out’ investigation, telecast on Monday night, discovered that groomers exploited the fact that Sikh families are less likely to report incidents of abuse. ‘Inside Out’ spoke to a girl whose own mother told her not to go to the police even though she had been subjected to sexual abuse by countless men. Fifteen-year old Jaswinder was under the control of a groomer for nearly two years. The man charged countless others to have sex with her and took obscene pictures that he used to blackmail her.
Campaigners have called for greater awareness and tougher action to tackle the issue of sexual grooming targeting specific communities in Britain.
Sue Berelowitz, deputy children’s commissioner for England, said, "There is quite a way to go in terms of police forces around the country waking up to the fact that there are ethnic minority victims of sexual abuse."
Image: Children display protest placards during during a demonstration against child abuse
Photograph: Romeo Ranoco/Reuters