Home Grown Trafficking

21st January, 2011. In the last few weeks, the media has been awash with the details of the recent imprisonment and prosecution of a sex-gang in Derby.  Great emphasis has been placed on the process of grooming and the cultural ethnicity of the gang and the unequal view of women. There has certainly been much debate as to the ethnicity factor in relation to this matter, propagated by Jack Straw and there may be some justification in this thought and differing cultural attitude towards women. An interesting discussion is had in relation to this by Baroness Shreela Flather in “Women: acceptable exploitation for profit”.

However, very little coverage has been given to the fact that this is home grown trafficking on British soil. Certainly there is room for debate in respect of the cultural attitude issue and I do not wish to undermine this, but little has been said about trafficking and this is a concept that should be brought more to the attention of the public.

The public in the UK have long been unaware of the trafficking problem in the UK and to a certain degree have had a ‘not on our doorstep’ view. However, statistics in 2010 show that a large number of people were being trafficked into the UK (it is difficult to ascertain a specific figure). Even where the public do think that there may be a trafficking issue in the UK, it is generally perceived that trafficking encompasses persons being brought into our borders from abroad and that we do not have a domestic “home grown” problem.

There is no universal accepted definition of trafficking for sexual exploitation but the term does include an organised movement of people, usually women, for forced exploitation and primarily sexual exploitation.  Trafficked women are usually considered to come from abroad – for some reason, we do not consider that UK nationals could fall under the definition of trafficking, though, it is clear that the grooming and sexual exploitation of the young girls highlighted in the recent Derby case  would clearly fall into the ambit of trafficking.

From the disclosures made around the case, it is apparent that young girls were certainly recruited, harboured and were transported around the UK for sexual abuse and exploitation. Grooming of young girls involves psychological manipulation to gain trust using activities that are typically legal but generally for illegal intentions such as forced exploitation and the end activities would certainly be considered to fall within the realm of trafficking.  All victims of these and similar gangs will require counselling and aftercare due to their forced sexual exploitation as all trafficked persons should receive.

Whilst the cultural issue should certainly be addressed as per Jack Straw’s views, as rightly said by Caroline Scott in her article in the Sunday Times[1], “sexual exploitation isn’t about race; it’s a symptom of a growing culture of violence by men and boys towards girls”. Charities such as Barnado’s have asserted that child protection has to be made a priority and I believe that more thought to the trafficking element of this case and similar cases has to be given.

[1] The Sunday Times – News Review – 16 January 2011