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In May 2012, nine men from the Rochdale area of Manchester were found guilty of sexually exploiting a number of underage girls. Reporting on the trial, the media focussed…
In May 2012, nine men from the Rochdale area of Manchester were found guilty of sexually exploiting a number of underage girls. Reporting on the trial, the media focussed on the fact that eight of the nine men were of Pakistani origin, while the girls were all white. It also framed similar cases in Preston, Rotherham, Derby, Shropshire, Oxford, Telford and Middlesbrough as ethnically motivated, thus creating a moral panic centred on South Asian grooming gangs preying on white girls. Despite the lack of evidence that the abuse perpetrated by some Asian men is distinct from male violence against women generally, the media focus on the grooming gang cases has constructed a narrative in which South Asian men pose a unique sexual threat to white girls. This process of ‘othering’ South Asian men in terms of abusive behaviour masks the fact that in the United Kingdom, the majority of sexual and physical abuse is perpetrated by white men; it simultaneously marginalises the sexual and domestic violence experienced by black and minority ethnic women. Indeed, the sexual abuse of South Asian women and girls is invisibilised within this binary discourse, despite growing concerns and evidence that the men who groomed the young girls in the aforementioned cases had also perpetrated domestic and sexual violence in their homes against their wives/partners. Through discourse analysis of newspaper coverage of these cases for the period 2012‒2018, this paper examines the British media's portrayal of South Asian men – particularly Pakistani men – in relation to child-grooming offences and explores the conditions under which ‘South Asian men’ have been constructed as ‘folk devils’. It also highlights the comparatively limited newspaper coverage of the abuse experiences and perspectives of Asian women and girls from the same communities to emphasise that violence against women and girls remains an ongoing problem across the nation.