There are two false assumptions that have distorted debate about the Rochdale abuse case (report, 9 May).
The first is that victims were targeted because they were vulnerable or white. This confuses the issue, missing the fact that they were targeted primarily because of their gender, by misogynist men who thought these unprotected girls easy prey.
A second associated assumption, unfortunately echoed by the judge, is that these abusive men were protective of women within their own communities. In fact, abusive men who attack women outside their homes often pose a serious threat to those within them, though they may express and justify their violence in different ways.
The fact that such men express authoritarian religious and social attitudes about women and enforce their confinement within the home is evidence of a desire to control rather than protect, to limit rights rather than defend them. Such attitudes increase rather than lessen the danger and help silence victims and witnesses.
Several of these men told their victims that "in their country" sex with minors was acceptable. In the light of this, it is to be hoped that the police and social services offer assistance to all women and children who have had contact with these dangerous men.
For Our Daughters, Brighton
I am sure that the vast majority of the Muslim community are as horrified by the behaviour of the nine men convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of sexual offences as everyone else – no doubt they will now be fearful of an increase in racist attacks on themselves.
There is one racist aspect of the case: that originally the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to prosecute and that, as a result, the offences continued for a further two years. It was only with the appointment of a Muslim, Nazir Afzal, last summer to the post of Chief Crown Prosecutor that that decision was reversed.
I wonder if I am the only person to have been struck by the idea that his predecessor may have been inhibited from action by considerations of political correctness and a fear of accusations of Islamophobia?
Martin D Stern
The recent convictions of a gang of men for sexually exploiting very young women will cause much debate about race and culture – some will be sensible and much needed – some not.
What is beyond debate is that the rights of some young people who were little more than children were neglected by those in authority when their first complaints were made and ignored. Before we point the finger at other communities, let's examine our cultural attitudes towards our own young people.
Thatcham, West Berkshire
If reform is on the agenda, why stop at House of Lords?
Isn't the fuss about the reform of the House of Lords (Letters, 10 May) a bluff, a diversion to distract the public from the real problem – the Commons? Having successfully avoided electoral reform by presenting a referendum at a time and in a form which made it unwinnable, the Commons is now distracting attention from itself by tinkering with the innocuous Lords.
The problem is the whole of Westminster, and until we have well-thought-out constitutional and electoral reform, it will continue to show itself institutionally incapable of producing good government. The notion that one house can be reformed without the other is absurd.
The Lords may indeed need reform. I personally favour a second chamber consisting of Law Lords, there to scrutinise and amend some of the badly drafted and ill-thought-out legislation sent there by our MPs. But right now I do not want to be offered yet more self-important people putting themselves up for election.
Judging from the low turnouts, the electorate largely says no to voting in general elections. They have said "no" to elected mayors. They said "no" to regional assemblies. They will, if asked, say "no" to elected police and crime commissioners. As it is, much of this may eventually be undemocratically forced upon us.
Until politicians prove to the public that voting actually achieves what people want, they will continue to become less and less engaged.
Buckland Newton, Dorset
Certain opponents of Lords reform seem to think that asking for a referendum is a good delaying tactic. Perhaps they should be told that because this reform was in the manifesto of all three large parties, it must be enacted, within this Parliament.
If reform is not negotiated by the end of this Parliament's 4th year then total abolition should be enacted in the final year.
If a referendum on House of Lords reform were to be held, no matter how popular it has been in the past, the reform camp would lose for one simple reason: Nick Clegg. Just like with AV a year ago, millions with no real interest will use a constitutional matter to damage one hugely unpopular, already doomed politician. We would lose any prospect of democratic constitutional reform for decades to come.
Those in favour of retaining the status quo know this, which is why they are pushing so hard for a referendum.
Why not wait three years, by which time the toxicity of Clegg's support for elected lords should be a near irrelevance, when we can implement an entirely modern, democratic House of Lords?
Jack H G Darrant
One side wants white and the other wants black. The Government will offer a grey bill which will satisfy no one. Neither side will vote for it. Promise kept; problem shelved for someone else to tackle; status quo continues.
How ironic that we have an unelected head of state announcing that there should be an elected House of Lords. When the Coalition has brought more democratic legitimacy to the upper chamber, perhaps it might consider introducing the same for the role of the head of state?
The Windsors would, of course, be free to put a candidate forward for election.
I failed the 11-plus, thank goodness
Oh Mr Gove you are so right! (Letters, 2 May.) Failing the 11-plus came as something of a relief to me. I was happy to be going to my local secondary modern, the nearest school to where I lived, where all my mates were going too.
This was in the early Fifties; was it a terrible blunder that has blighted my life? Not a bit of it. I received the education that has stood me in good stead all my working life. It was simple stuff, the three Rs mainly. A bit of basic heroic history. Some geography so we could find our way home.
But the real business of education happened in the metal and wood workshops. Here we learnt the arts of joinery and timber construction, made coffee tables (still in use today), even, eventually, a full-sized set of steps. We used lathes and other metal-working machinery, learnt how to solder and harden. In short, we were going to be the new generation of engineers and construction workers desperately needed to rebuild the devastation left by the war. And that, pretty much is how it worked out (although now I'm more likely to be rebuilding the devastation wrought by DIYers).
It was clear to the powers-that-be in those days that not everybody was university fodder. I had no A-levels; all I had to impress potential employers were reports from my wood- and metal-work masters. On the strength of those, the careers officer found me an apprenticeship.
Who decided that this sort of education was no longer needed? Now we can boast the best-educated shelf-fillers and bar staff in the world. Fortunately – from my point of view at least – most of them haven't got a clue how to put a shelf up.
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
The north-south divide lives on
Graham Johnson (Letters, 10 May) implies that there is a north/south bias in the way that Brighton is always chosen to illustrate bank holiday weather. He is surely correct. That's why, if a children's hospital is required, it's always Great Ormond Street, or if a vintage car rally is shown, it's always London to Brighton. I am put in mind of an old Peter Ustinov joke. When asked at school to name a Russian composer, he replied: "Rimsky-Korsakov". "Wrong," said his teacher, "it's Tchaikovsky". I'm sure that Graham Johnson could name some famous white cliffs near his north Yorkshire home, but I fear that if he said Flamborough Head it would be the wrong answer. The correct response is, of course, Dover.
Another reason to visit Hamburg
I agree with Simon Calder that Hamburg is a fascinating city (Independent Traveller, 5 May); my son and I spent a really enjoyable weekend there recently. But Simon missed one of the highlights. Miniatur Wunderland is the world's biggest indoor model railway and is one of Germany's top tourist attractions. It's full of lots more than just tiny trains; don't miss the €3.5m model of Hamburg airport, complete with planes that take off and land.
Did Rupert Cornwell, in his article on Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri (9 May), really mean to describe "the Yemen-based terrorist schemer who specialises in exploding underwear" as the "new pubic enemy Number One"?
Prepositions are all over the place (letters, 3 May). In my youth it was "up to you"; nowadays it is "down to you", and "fed up with" has become "fed up of". As for the magnificent neologism "mitigate against"...
In addition to Mary Dejevsky's list ("Another helpful hint for the NHS", 9 May), may I mention the mountains of heart pacemakers lying in funeral directors' offices which, at the least, could be transplanted into animals?
Stoke on Trent
Very slow drips
Your report of the "dripping pitch" experiment which started in 1927 (10 May) reminded me of something I recently read. It seems that the oldest stained glass in York Minster is thicker at the bottom than the top because of the "drip effect". I find this fact engaging, though I'm not sure why.
Has Angela Merkel read Shakespeare's Pericles? "Here's them in our country of Greece gets more with begging than we can do with working." (II.1.63-65)
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