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Girls forced into gang violence, says Christian youth charity report

A joint report has revealed thousands of British young women are entangled in a brutal gang culture where sexual exploitation, guns and drug-running are a daily reality.

The study compiled by Christian youth charity XLP and the Centre for Social Justice looks at how gang life can impact girls and young women.  

Researchers heard how female gang members in their teens are being pressured to have sex with young boys – some as young as 10 years old – to initiate males into gangs.

The report also outlines a case where one schoolgirl was abducted and sexually assaulted by nine males because she criticised a gang member.  

Participants have also revealed that rape is used as a weapon and girls and young women associated with rival gangs are targets, using a practice known as a 'line up', where young females are made to perform sexual acts on groups of men in a row.  XLP's Patrick Regan told Premier's News Hour what the study has uncovered.

The CSJ says that despite a Home Office-led strategy against gang culture being launched in 2011 after the riots, too little has changed.

It adds that in some schools problems have been exacerbated because headteachers have turned a blind eye to gang activity to protect their school's reputation.

Edward Boyd, CSJ Deputy Policy Director and editor of the report, said: "We are often unsighted about the desperate lives of girls embroiled in gangs.

"While the media regularly shines a spotlight on the criminality of male members, the daily suffering of girls goes largely unnoticed.

"They live in a parallel world where rape is used as a weapon and carrying drugs and guns is seen as normal."
A recent report said almost 2,500 children are known to be victims of child sexual exploitation by gangs and groups, but the CSJ says it's widely agreed this number is a conservative estimate.

Girls and young women are also frequently used to stash weapons and as drug mules, because they are less likely to be stopped and searched by police, while in London last year only six per cent of stop-and-searches were conducted on females.

The CSJ said the Government was right in 2011, to identify that authorities did not know enough about girls and young women associated with gangs.

Yet, it says three years later too little progress has been made.

The CSJ and XLP are calling for youth workers to be embedded in major trauma units in gang-affected areas and also for the police to team-up with voluntary organisations and make sure that when male gang members are arrested and imprisoned, their girlfriends get support to exit gang life.

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