Former Labour home secretary Jack Straw has described young white women as “easy meat” for sexual abuse by Pakistani men. After two Asian men who raped and sexually assaulted young women in Derby were given indefinite jail terms, Straw said that there is a “specific problem” of Pakistani men who “target vulnerable young white girls” and called for “the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on”.
In fact the judge who sentenced Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique said that he did not believe the crimes were “racially aggravated”, arguing that the ethnicity of the victims and the perpetrators was “coincidental”.
The wider issue is Straw’s stereotyping of British Pakistanis. This is not the first time, of course, that Straw has played to racists in the gallery – witness the regressive manner in which he raised the (real) issue of the niqab, and the foul anti-asylum-seeker/migrant policies he presided over as home secretary. Naturally the far right has jumped on his comments – something he might have predicted, if he cared.
There are men in every religious and ethnic “community” who regard women of their own background as pure and women of other backgrounds as contemptible targets for sexual predation. The vast majority of sex offenders are white, as you might expect. Straw himself acknowledged this in his statement, yet he aimed specifically at Pakistani men. What combination of personal prejudice and search for political advantage is involved is difficult to judge. (Straw and Phil Woolas is an interesting comparison.) In any case, it is pretty grotesque.
Less widely noticed is the fact that Straw’s casual use of the phrase “easy meat” is also sexist.
The fight for women’s rights, and against rape and sexual abuse, has not been helped by Straw’s comments, while the fight against racism has been damaged.