The poster uses the face of a white child with a black/brown hand over her mouth and by doing so trivialises and diverts attention from the reality of child sexual exploitation and at the same time plays into racist stereotypes.
- It suggests that perpetrators are Black or Asian and victims are white. In fact, as numerous cases (like those of powerful politicians like Cyril Smith, media personalities like Jimmy Savile, or of white men acting in gangs to exploit large numbers of young girls and women) have shown, perpetrators come from all racial groups. The majority are family members of the child or friends of her/his family.
- Racial stereotyping which suggests that perpetrators of child exploitation are most likely to be Black or Asian people is extremely irresponsible, particularly at a time when hate crime is on the increase.
- Like the perpetrators, the children facing Child Sexual Exploitation are also from all racial backgrounds and as agencies working with young Asian women have pointed out, often the sexual exploitation of Black and Asian children is ignored because of lack services and other reasons.
There have been a number of complaints about the poster from different parts of the country but it has not been withdrawn. Instead, the response from the National Working Group for Child Sexual Exploitation has been to justify it. A Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that the images were taken from the library of the National Working Group (NWG) on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) (the leading UK network of more than 2500 practitioners who disseminate information to professionals working on the issue of CSE and trafficking) and shockingly that the same images have been used on other similar campaigns nationally.
As Chair of the partnership Child Sexual Exploitation group, Assistant Chief Constable of Northamptonshire, Ivan Balhatchet takes full responsibility for the posters and Northamptonshire Police and the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children’s Board (NSCB), 'do not regard them as discriminating against any group in society'.
Bina Parmar, a Child Sexual Exploitation Specialist Team Member at NWG, who works closely with the Children’s Minister’s team and national organisations such as the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Barnardos and the Children's Society and was involved in the selection of the images for the NWG claims that "The hand in the image is in fact a white man’s hand, caught in a shadow, and in the print process it does look darker on some visuals.” This argument is dangerous and misleading, because if a hand looks dark in a poster it is seen as the hand of a Black or Asian person. No one walking past such a poster would stop and think: "Is this really a white hand looking Asian or Black..?", and this makes the poster blatantly racist.
In fact, the white supremacist English Defence League (EDL) have, since the Child Sexual Exploitation poster campaign was launched, developed very similar images specifically designed to inflame racial tension.
The poster must be withdrawn!
This petition has been endorsed by the following representatives of local and national organisations which combat violence against women and girls:
Amrit Wilson (Freedom Without Fear Platform)
Zlakha Ahmed (Apna Haq, Rotherham)
Anjona Roy (Dostiyo, Northampton)
Sarah Green (End Violence Against Women Coalition)
Sumanta Roy (Imkaan)
Baljit Banga (Newham Asian Women's Project)
Katie Russell (Rape Crisis England and Wales)
Hilary Fisher (Women's Aid)
Vivienne Hayes (Women's Resource Centre)
Please endorse it too by signing the petition