A British lawmaker was forced to step down Tuesday after facing criticism over a column she wrote to address Britain’s “problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.”
Sarah Champion resigned from Parliament almost one week after writing a column for the Sun in response to the convictions of 18 people who sexually assaulted a group of women and girls in Newcastle, some of whom were as young as 15. The police initially interviewed 108 potential suspects, 20 victims ultimately testified.
“Britain has a problem with British-Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls,” Champion wrote.
“There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?
For too long we have ignored the race of these abusers and, worse, tried to cover it up.”
Champion apologized for her “extremely poor choice of words” and stepped down from her position as Rotherham MP and shadow equalities in response to the backlash.
Champion framed the recent conviction of 17 men and one women on charges including rape, supplying drugs and inciting prostitution as part of a horrific pattern that U.K. authorities and lawmakers have failed to meaningfully address “because people are more afraid to be called a racist than they are afraid to be wrong about calling out child abuse.”
There have been similar cases in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford over the last several years in which men, mostly from Pakistani backgrounds, ply young, working class women and girls with drugs and alcohol in order to sexually exploit them.
The Rotherham case, which occurred in Champion’s district, was particularly brutal, 1,400 children were subjected to sexual abuse between 1997 and 2013. A report, commissioned by the Rotherham Borough Council, found that “several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought as racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”
Champion’s column was met with harsh backlash from her own party, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told the BBC Wednesday the party will not “blame” or “demonize any particular group.” Corbyn denied there was a ‘particular problem’ with Pakistani men grooming young white women and girls for sexual predation.
His statements represent a stark departure from his original comments, made Friday, in which he praised Champion, saying
“She stood up for her city, she stood up against those that have abused children.”