Jack Straw: helping racism, not women's rights

Submitted by AWL on 11 January, 2011 - 4:34

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.

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Submitted by AWL on Wed, 12/01/2011 - 01:34

LRC calls for NEC inquiry into Jack Straw’s comments

11th January 2011

The LRC condemns the statement made by Labour MP Jack Straw that “there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls ... who they think are easy meat”.

We call on the Labour leadership and the whole labour movement to disown Straw’s disgraceful comments. We also call on the NEC to open an inquiry into whether Straw should be allowed to continue as a Labour MP and party member.

It is obvious that the crimes committed by these men were heinous, but the fact is there is no statistical evidence to support Jack Straw’s statements.

Straw has clearly failed to examine all the evidence, which would contradict his assertions. He also used incredibly provocative language in doing so, which made his statement all the more inflammatory.

To make matters worse, his comments were made in the run-up to the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, following the despatching of Phil Woolas – whose own racist comments brought shame upon the Labour Party, and which were condemned by the LRC and many others.

It is deeply problematic that there appears to be an acceptance of casual racism in the Parliamentary Labour Party – where Woolas was defended. There has also been little condemnation by the PLP of Jack Straw’s comments.

While it is important that politicians are able to address controversial issues, this should be based on facts and rational debate, not prejudice and hyperbole.

There is of course a more important need to tackle the underlying issue of violence against women. This requires significant cultural and political change in all communities.

We call on all labour movement bodies to support our call for the NEC to investigate Jack Straw’s comments to determine whether he has brought the Party into disrepute.

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