When can I start to teach my children about consent?

As mothers we share our bodies with our infants for the months before their birth. If they are to be born safely into this world, neither they nor we can choose to give up the bond of touch between us. And then, a few minutes after birth, when the umbilical cord is cut, they and we are free. 

Of course, they miss the warmth of our bodies, the beat of our hearts. They crave our touch, and we crave them. We hold them close, and they snuggle in. We will caress them, and squeeze them, and plant kisses on them, and stroke them, and tickle them for as long as they’ll let us. And one of the most powerful, terrifying fears that we face is that one day someone will touch them without that love; will touch them to hurt them. And that when that happens, we won’t be there to protect them from harm. 


We hold them close…

We can’t be there to protect them for ever, so we need to arm them ready to go out in the world independently. And one of the most powerful ways that we can prepare them and help them stay safe is to make sure they understand that their bodies are their own, and that no-one gets to touch them in a way they don’t like. No one touches them without their consent. 

Can you teach a baby about consent? 

Yes. You can teach a baby, a newborn baby, about consent. Crazy? Not at all. 

Many cultures have traditions of massaging their babies in infancy. This starts straight after birth, as an alternative to bathing; gently massaging the remaining vitamin-K-rich vernix into the baby’s skin. The practice of massaging babies has now become quite mainstream and many mothers will be taught baby massage. When you learn to massage your baby, you should be taught to start by asking your baby’s permission. (If your baby massage teacher does not do this, gently question why not?)


Can you teach a baby about consent? Yes.  

It may seem absurd to ask a pre-verbal infant for “permission” before massaging them, but babies very quickly learn to recognise a set of cues. You undress them for a massage and gently rub the oil warm between the palms of your hands, making sure to do so in their eyeline, and then make sure the first touch is always to stroke their feet. After only a few days, if they are in the mood for a massage, they will start to wave their feet towards you when they can see you warm the oil. When you don’t get the outstretched feet response (and they stay scrunched up in a typical baby pose) you know massage isn’t what they want right now; respond to that by not massaging them. Congratulations. You have just had your first conversation with your baby about bodily autonomy and consent.

I’m not ready to talk to my child about sex. 

Talking about consent with a young child doesn’t involve talking about sex. Remember tickling games? How tickling starts out funny and giggly, and then it starts to be painful and horrid? Remember writhing and squirming and yelling for the tickler to stop? If you want your child to learn about consent, be the tickler that stops straight away when it stops being fun. Children will be quick to say “again, again!” if all they needed was a breather. If you’ve ever been the victim of an over-enthusiastic bony fingered tickler and can remember the relief when they stopped at last, give your child that gift. Honour their boundaries. And police their games to the same rules. I teach my children an important lesson every time I intervene in a rough game when one of them sounds unhappy, and the others complain that it was “just a bit of fun”. It’s only fun, I remind them, if everyone’s having fun. 

Stop! is a safe word in our house. 

Don’t do that, it’s not nice. is a safe phrase.

Children don’t get it straight away, and they will often offer as a reason for carrying on “but I like it when [little brother] does it to me”. And that’s the time to remind them that what they like isn’t the same as what everyone likes; that “it doesn’t hurt” may be true for them, but not for their sibling or their friend. That it’s only fun if everyone’s having fun. 


Applies to tickling games in childhood too.

They need to hear over and over when they are little until they understand, that when they want to, but someone else doesn’t want to, they should find something else to do. Then they will have no trouble when they are older understanding that as women they can tell a man to stop, and that as men, they can stop when told. And, because men can be sexually assaulted, and women can commit sexual offences, they will also understand that the other way round (and any other combination) is also true.  

But want to or not, they’ve got to kiss their grandma!!

No, they really don’t.

You can help your young child to understand and assert their bodily autonomy if you never demand that they accept a touch that they don’t want. It’s reasonable to expect your child to be courteous and not to yell that grandma smells of Lambert & Butler or that Uncle John’s whiskers are scratchy and have bits of dinner in them, but that courtesy doesn’t have to extend to letting them be kissed and squeezed against their will. Above all, don’t ever let them think they they will earn approval from you if they let themselves be touched against their will. This isn’t because you should assume Grandmas and Uncles are serial abusers. This is simply because the more your child practices asserting their bodily autonomy, the better they’ll get at it. 

Having difficulty helping your child assert their boundaries? (It can sometimes cause conflict in families if you don’t let your cuddly child become their squeeze toy). Get a copy of Uncle Willy’s tickles.


This isn’t about “inappropriate” touching in the sexual sense. This is simply about a child’s right to say “no” to touch that is unwanted. 

(And here’s a link to some more, similarly helpful resources: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Its-Body-Uncomfortable-Childrens-prevention/dp/0943990033)

Every single helpful resource you can find for parents (or professionals) about keeping children safe will reiterate these basic messages. This great Kidscape Leaflet (http://www.kidscape.org.uk/assets/downloads/kskeepthemsafe.pdf) highlights many important ways to help your children stay safe as children and grow into adults who will be safe and not cause harm to others. They need to know how to:

  • Say no
  • Tell
  • Refuse touches
  • Break rules (if that’s necessary to keep them safe)
  • YELL!!!

All this stuff is too young for my children

As your children get older their school and other organisations like youth clubs will (or should) start discussing issues of consent as part of their PHSE curriculum. If they do, be prepared to support those conversations at home. But if they don’t (and some schools remain weak on this important aspect of education), you may need to develop the whole conversation yourself. How and when will depend on your child. But hopefully some of the important foundations outlined above will already be there.

BishUK.com is a great site with age appropriate information about sex and relationships for teens. 

Here’s the section on Sex and the Law, which will help your older child / young adult to understand what the legal boundaries are and what that may mean for them in their relationships: http://bishuk.com/2009/08/02/sex-and-the-law/

In personal terms, this section Should I have sex? (http://bishuk.com/2009/08/01/should-i-have-sex/) may be the most important one for your child(ren) to read. Like all responsible advice, it rehearses messages that your child will (hopefully) have heard all their life, including “You could say no, and that would be OK”. Or this section Talk to the Hand (http://bishuk.com/2009/10/20/talk-to-the-hand/) which gives your older child / young adult the tools and skills to say NO in this higher pressure situation. 


Scarleteen is another super site with high quality sex education content and lots of wise advice about consent here: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/boyfriend/drivers_ed_for_the_sexual_superhighway_navigating_consent

One of the site’s best features is its list of verbal signals of consent and non-consent. As you’ll see from the link, silence features more than once on the non-consent list.

There’s also a list of non-verbal signals of consent and non-consent. And the site has some really clear advice about signs that a sexual partner doesn’t care about consent, and is therefore a risk to your son or daughter. It’s so important, I’ve cheekily extracted it here. Share it with your sons and daughters:

What are some clues someone doesn’t care about consent?They act like they’re in a big hurry. They act like you or others owe them sex or they owe you sex. They’re not asking how you’re feeling or what you want: they seem only or mostly focused on themselves or they are ONLY focused on you and seem to have none of their own desires or limits. They don’t really seem to be all there. They’re ignoring or trying to change some of your stop signs, like pushing them away, not wanting to get naked, saying you’re not sure or saying no. You feel unsafe or worried; unable to speak up or say no or are worried they’re unsafe or can’t speak up. They react with anger, resentment or self-injury when you don’t immediately say yes to sex. They don’t seem to have personal boundaries.

If any of those things are going on, do yourself a favor and just get away from that person or situation pronto. If you were wrong, it’s okay: no one is done big harm by not getting laid


We can’t protect our children from hurt for ever, but we can prepare them to protect themselves. Most of us would want our children to enjoy full and happy sex lives with a partner or partners of their choice. Understanding their own (and others’) right to bodily autonomy, and their freedom to give or withhold consent is an important part of that preparation. 

They need to know the score. Then, when they are wrapped up in the warmth of another body, and close to the beat of another heart, we can be confident it’s what they want, and they are having joy and fun. 


Being “Brave”.

As she haughtily ascends her breakfast throne, my spirited 4 year old red-head announces “I am Merida.”

Brave Merida

She has clearly had her attention grabbed by the admirable qualities of the main character we went to see at the cinema yesterday – Princess Merida, hero of Disney / Pixar’s Brave.

Merida – in unwilling training to be a typical Disney Princess – is focusing at her mother’s insistence on being seen and not heard, developing the lady-like skills of tapestry and not eating too many pies. But at the same time she yearns for a more traditionally ‘princely’ life of warrior’s skills, including archery and horse-riding and adventuring freely in the forest. 

Much has been made of the fact that this is Pixar’s first film with a female protagonist. As Ryan Gilbey points out in his New Stateman review (http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/culture/2012/08/brave-review):

After a sports car, a tin box and a rat, I suppose it had to get around to one eventually.

With reviews like this, it’s easy to understand why mainstream film-producers may be wary of strong female leads. Gilbey goes on to dismiss the female action-hero like this

It’s really a pity the girl wasn’t born in China 1,000 years earlier because she and Mulan could have had sleepovers and pillow fights and been total BFFs.

And finally decides that:

Maintaining one’s individuality within the family is a challenge relevant to all children. I just don’t remember older films making such a fuss about it.The Jungle Book was comparatively rudimentary in its animation techniques but at least its songs never urged Mowgli, as Brave does with Merida, to “Chase the wind!” and “Touch the sky!” and all those other things you only hear about in advertisements for energy drinks or tampons. 

Don’t let such mealy-mouthed commentary put you off! A reviewer who understands a female character adopting and revelling in what have been traditionally seen as male traits simply as “maintaining one’s individuality within the family” and “a challenge relevant to all children” doesn’t understand the particular expectations of girls as they grow into women and the way that those expectations are consistently reinforced again and again in a variety of ways including through popular culture. 

Past “heroines” may have recoiled at the pressure to marry an unwanted suitor. Happy ever after endings rely on these women marrying a man of their own choosing. Rarely in the fairy-tale genre do we have a happy ending where the young princess simply does not marry. And rides off into a brave new dawn with…her mum. This makes Brave more – well – brave than any number of more supposedly grown up media offerings where the narrative arc irresistibly leads female characters to matrimony in the end.  

Traditional fairy-tale plots generally concern (unstated) broken and reassembled families; it’s as though the reality of parent and child conflict can only be explained by non-biological links and step-parenting. Within this family the mother and daughter conflict, the father and daughter bond, the parenting disagreements all feel plausible. Idealising ‘whole’ families and demonising ‘step’ and other composite families should be consigned to the past. Intra-familial conflict and disagreement is real (and non-fatal!) for most families. 

Merida’s mother may adopt the more “traditional” role of Queen, but she is no cypher. Her skills at leading, organising and strategising are evident. Of a new generation, Merida’s route will be different, but there’s no overlooking the fact that her steely composure and determination come as much from her mother as from her father. Queen Elinor makes a plausible bear. The differences between the mama-bear and Mor-dhu, the villain bear are probably already covered in countless film studies essays: (http://braveconfessions.tumblr.com/post/24472798131)

There’s a lovely subsidiary story-line about Merida’s three little brothers. Dana Stevens, reviewing for Slate considers the lack of differentiation between them a weakness (http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/movies/2012/06/pixar_s_brave_reviewed_.html). I disagree. As a one-time adolescent big sister to a basket-full of diddy little brothers myself, this element of the story rings sweetly true to me. To the big sister, from whose point of view this story is told, they would have been virtually indistinguishable from each other. A whirling bundle of pests and accomplices combined. Merida’s ability to command their loyalty and assistance at a crucial plot-point is part of the fun, but it also subtly underlines some well-established ‘motherly’ qualities that co-exist with the other aspects of her personality. 

Of course, a film of this type won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, nor will it transform overnight the saccharine balance of the Disney princesses our daughters are exposed to. But it’s a film with richer layers than a first viewing suggests. I welcome the addition of Merida to the princess canon. 

No “Yes” is always a “No”.

Here’s a great tweet:

“@nicola_blunders: The right to say no to sex is a core human right. Attempting to erode that right is an act of aggression. It’s not a ‘debate’.”

And if the character limit allowed, I’d add “and the absence of a YES should always be construed as a NO.”

Here’s another great tweet:

“@Anonymoosh: only a clear,emphatic,informed and consensual ‘YES PLEASE’ each and every time is assent,anything less is not so get over it #sexualpolitics”

I completely agree.

But whoops! What if I’m feeling really sexy, totally turned on by you, absolutely up for it, ready and willing for whatever you have in mind and I …y’know … forget to say “yes”?

And what if – naughty minx that I am – I’m all of the above and I say “no” when I really mean “yes”, what then?

Here’s what I think should happen in the situation where my “no” or the absence of a “yes” leads You to the idea that I don’t know my own mind; that I want to really but I’m sending “mixed signals”.

Don’t carry on trying to have sex with me. Stop. Walk away. You could even say “I’m stopping now because it seems like you’re saying no, or at least, not saying yes.”

Then, if I – whoops, silly me – got my “yeses” and my “noes” mixed up; or forgot the word “yes” completely That would jog my memory. And as an added bonus for us both, you wouldn’t rape me.

That clear? Good.

“Women’s Work”

In an otherwise OK piece in the Guardian today by Guy Standing (here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/19/britian-labour-figures-hi… )the second paragraph stands out as being a particularly weak and cliched description of unpaid caring and domestic work, relying on the label “women’s work” – and without even inverted commas to signal that the author is aware of the old-fashioned and sexist terminology.

As originally rendered, the paragraph reads:

“The economist Arthur Pigou once said that if he hired a housekeeper, national income and employment went up, whereas if he married her and she did the same work, they went down. That aphorism still applies: labour statistics still disregard all the work done mainly by women. But women’s work is not the only kind of work that does not show up in the employment statistics released last week, based as they are on concepts developed in the industrial 1940s.”

My tweeted grumble about the language used has already drawn a response suggesting that – in fairness – the author had a valid point to make. I don’t disagree, but there are other, better ways to make it.

Here’s one possible way to make the same point while rejecting sexist cliches and placing the original quote in context.

“The early 20th century economist Arthur Pigou, once remarked on the economic anomaly of unpaid domestic work by saying that if he hired a housekeeper, national income and employment went up, whereas if he married her and she did the same work, they went down. Nearly one hundred years later labour statistics continue to disregard unpaid caring and domestic work, much of it still carried out by women. But unpaid caring and domestic labour is not the only kind of work that does not show up in the employment statistics released last week, based as they are on concepts developed in the industrial 1940s.”

There may be better ways, but certainly Standing has no excuse for writing as he did.

What price a social conscience?


Today the hard copy Guardian headlines this article (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/aug/17/zara-inditex-profits?INTCMP=SRCH) about Spanish retailer Inditex thus: “Jobs, a social conscience and big profits: what’s not to like about world’s biggest fashion store?” and notes “Profits up 30% for group run by billionaire recluse.”

The billionaire recluse in question is Amancio Ortega – named by Bloomberg as the “third richest man in the world” and sitting on a personal fortune of €37.5 billion

My instinctive assessment of anyone sitting on a personal fortune that size is that they can’t have much of a ‘social conscience’, but hey! it’s worth at least reading to the end of the article to find out what the Guardian business pages think a social conscience costs these days.

So – evidence of social conscience? No sign of one at all for most of the article, but 3 paragraphs from the end the piece notes that “it uses renewable energy sources at its main plant in Arteixo in Galicia” and also that “when it discovered a supplier in Brazil was sub-contracting to sweat shops, its response was as firm as it was quick”. What the quick firm response was, exactly, the article neglects to tell us.

The main claim to a “social conscience” comes from the work of the Armancio Ortega Foubdation. This, we are told, has “just dished out €11million to create 750 nursery school places in Galicia.

I’m as happy as anyone to hear of nursery places being created, but let’s understand what the scale of this largesse is:

€11million as a percentage of a personal fortune of €37.5billion is 0.029%. The equivalent ‘social conscience’ for a worker on an annual salary of £25,000 would be a donation to charity of £7.25*. I don’t denigrate that as a gesture, but really, there’s no justification for blowing Ortega’s trumpet.

If the bar for a headline-grabbing ‘social conscience’ is set so low, no wonder our unequal world is in such a mess.

(*Strictly speaking this assertion isn’t accurate as Ortega’s social conscience is expressed as a share of wealth rather than income, but I hope the scaling point comes across clearly. Ortega’s social conscience costs him peanuts.)


Tolerance on Trial

A young person – at 17 in law still a child – died in 2003 at the hands of her parents, who have both in 2012 been convicted of her murder. And now "tolerance" also stands in the dock. 

The murder of Shafilea Ahmed has prompted much comment, some of it about the repugnant term "honour killing" which certainly should have no place in anyone's crime lexicon, and some about the concept of "tolerance" and its status as virtue or vice. 

A good look at the comments beneath this Guardian article by Sara Khan (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/03/shafilea-ahmed-death-tragedy-women-fate) demonstrates this issue nicely. We're all far too multi-cultural, tolerant and afraid of upsetting Muslims, or being accused of racism, it seems. 

The modern definition of "tolerance" in the context of differences between cultures might be: a fair / objective / permissive attitude towards those whose opinions and practices differ from one's own.  By this definition tolerance is a virtue. It can be said to denote an absence of bigotry at the very least.

"Tolerance" in this context (it seems to me)  contains some if its other meanings too – that sense of enduring or putting up with something inconvenient or distasteful (next door's noisy children, a bonfire when you've just got your washing out, smelly drains, the first bus passing at 5am);  and also (as in machining) the permissible range of variation in something. 

Mealymouthed "tolerance" therefore describes our fairness and objectivity in relation to that permissible range of variation in cultural practice we are prepared to endure without complaint. "Tolerance" isn't "acceptance", still less "welcome". It is not a huge multi-cultural leap. It is the very smallest fair and objective step a person can take when relating to a different culture. The most modest of virtues. And yet some commentators on the Shafilea Ahmed murder are all too ready to reposition it as a vice. 

Christina Odone in this extraordinary and repellant piece in the Telegraph (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/cristinaodone/100174718/when-muslim-parents-kill-a-beautiful-17-year-old-out-of-religious-conviction-i-feel-intolerant/

wants some of us to embrace intolerance instead. She writes:

"When Muslim parents hate their host culture so much that they will kill a child who seems to embrace it, then they are guilty of intolerance – the kind that non-Muslims are wary of showing, lest they be branded racist, or bigoted." 

Read that again and feel your jaw drop. Odone describes the murder of a child as an act of "intolerance". An intolerance that she describes non-Muslims (who the wide awake among us will know also sometimes murder children) as "wary of showing", but which she herself appears ready to embrace, saying:  "A tragedy like Shafilea's makes me feel intolerant." Is she really on the point of killing teenage girls in response to this tragedy? It doesn't seem likely.

I've no great admiration for Odone's writing, but I know she wouldn't write a paragraph as addled as this unless she'd got herself into a right old mess and was really trying to convey the notion that "tolerance" – as in, the uncomplaining willingness to endure another's culture – is more of a vice than a virtue and should therefore cease forthwith.  To that end she sees this murder as a "very strong argument" for more Muslim faith schools. It is bafflingly unclear why such segregation would protect those young women at risk of forced marriage – though perhaps she thinks it might protect teachers with different, "Western"  values from having to confront these situations. She certainly doesn't seem to recognise or acknowledge that this murder, and the presumed 'reason' for it, are as abhorrent to the majority of her Muslim compatriots (and yes, I chose that word deliberately) and to the majority of UK residents of Pakistani origin, as they are to her. 

"Tolerance" also gets a bit of a telling off in the much more considered and thoughtful blog of @Langtry_Girl (http://economistadentata.tumblr.com/). But even here the dubious virtue of "tolerance" is deemed to have gone too far. 

"When tolerance, whether exercised by the state or by individuals becomes so expansive that it leads to someone’s injury or death, it’s no longer tolerance; it’s apathy. In Shafilea’s case, that apathy was effectively an accessory to murder." In this reflection on the vice of tolerance, the state becomes the co-accused, along with Shafilea's parents: "It was her rights that the state needed to protect, not her parents’.  It failed. She died."  The state in its various manifestations (school, police) was, in this interpretation, more interested in permitting Shafilea's parents to maintain their cultural traditions, even where these extended as far as homicide, than in protecting a child. 

Unlike Odone's argument, which is both loathsome and confused, @Langtry_Girl's proposition does merit exploration, not least because we've been here before. When Victoria Climbié was killed by her carers in 2000, in a case which became the catalyst for a huge revision in child protection practice,  much soul-searching was undertaken into whether the social work profession was making differential assumptions about how families from other cultures should be allowed to discipline their children.  In other words, whether a "tolerance" of severe physical discipline had led to a failure to protect her.

In Lord Laming's 2003 report and recommendations arising from the Victoria Climbié case he made expectations clear: 

"The basic requirement that children are kept safe is universal and cuts across cultural boundaries… Cultural heritage is important to many people, but it cannot take precedence over standards of childcare embodied in law. …each child, irrespective of colour or background, should be treated as an individual requiring appropriate care."

What followed the public outcry over Victoria Climbié's death was one of the most significant, and in many ways positive, transformations of child protection policy and practice most professionals working with children and young people will have seen in their career. If an 'expansive tolerance' to parents and carers of non-British origin brutalising their children to death did exist prior to the Children Act 2004, the passing of that legislation makes it much less likely to exist now. Certainly my own experience is that these issues, if raised, are never taken lightly or ignored, and are often looked for, even if not specifically flagged as an issue. 

Of course, the passing of that legislation came too late for Shafilea Ahmed, who was killed in September 2003. Shafilea's death was undoubtedly a 'preventable death' (at least in theory), and that the various organisations and agencies with responsibility for child protection failed to prevent that death is self-evident and uncontested. What no one can be sure of is that those organisations and agencies were apathetic in the face of what was going on in Shafilea's life, or that if they were, such apathy was caused by a fear of being perceived as intolerant. (The Guardian reports: "If awkward questions were asked, the Ahmeds would claim they were victims of racial prejudice." http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/03/shafilea-ahmed-history-of-violence?newsfeed=true). The murder trial necessarily focused on establishing beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Shafilea's parents. It wasn't an investigation into the child protection practice of the various agencies she was involved with. But within the evidence there are tantalising glimpses of contact and possible engagement with various authorities; with the police when she ran away (more than once, it seems) from the age of 11; when her teacher Joanne Code reported her concerns (also more than once); when she shared her worries with a homelessness officer in a note;  when she was interviewed by social services in relation to injuries and she apparently asked for the investigation not to be taken further; while an in-patient in Warrington hospital after drinking bleach during a stay in Pakistan. 

To many people following this sad story it must seem obvious that if these authorities or individuals had done their jobs properly, Shafilea would still be alive today. And that may be so. But not every technically preventable death is actually preventable in practice, and at this point we don't know whether these individuals and organisations did everything that they could or should have done or whether there were indeed errors or omissions. We must now take steps to find out. 

As Chris Mills points out in this blog, the circumstances of this murder merit a serious case review which does not appear to have been carried out yet: 


Now that the criminal trial has ended, this must surely take place. (Warrington's Child Death Overview Panel would also have drawn some conclusions about this case). It would certainly be instructive to discover whether or not a fear of being thought to be racist, intolerant or culturally insensitive impeded the proper actions of the authorities in 2003 and to assure ourselves that if that was the case then, practices have changed now. 

What would be a mistake though would be for commentators to conflate the concept of "tolerance" with failures of professionals to do their duty for non-culturally-inspired reasons and to suggest that we need to reduce our "tolerance" of other cultures and practices in order to prevent future murders. We know from other serious case reviews that there are, sadly, many other causes of failure to prevent what are deemed to be preventable deaths. (Again my own experience suggests that there are particular difficulties in keeping young people safe over the age of 16, when many statutory obligations and responsibilities change or cease.)

But let's focus on tolerance. A "tolerant" country wouldn't have the kind of crime and race statistics recorded in this study: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/statistics/mojstats/stats-race-cjs-2010.pdf/
especially those for stop and search and imprisonment of non-white people. 

A "tolerant" country would not perpetuate the narrative of family-based, so-called 'honour' violence in Asian communities, when the data shows that it is white homicide cases that are most likely to involve a principal suspect that is a family member. 

"There were differences between the relationship of the homicide victims and principal suspects in cases with a current suspect across ethnic groups. While the largest proportion of homicides involving White victims involved a principal suspect from the victim’s family (37%), the principal suspect in homicides with Black victims was, in the largest proportion of cases, some other known person (39%); and, in homicides involving Asian victims, strangers (45%)." (p28 of same study).

This country needs more tolerance, not less. It needs to be more accepting and welcoming too. Children and young people from every race and culture need to be able to know that they can trust adults in all organisations and agencies to act together to protect them when they are at risk. 

A final mistake would be to assume that a murder which took place in 2003 automatically tells us something relevant and applicable to the UK of 2012 without further exploration of the current situation and a better understanding of current practice. Shafilea's murder has been successfully prosecuted this year, presumably because circumstances have changed (if only in terms of the willingness of the prosecutor to take action). Failings identified in local practice prior to the implementation of the Children Act 2004 are unlikely to remain unchanged or unchallenged today (as a review of the troubled history of Warrington's children's services shows: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/warrington). 

Shafilea's parents deserved to be on trial; it's always reasonable to check whether our current safeguarding and child protection arrangements have a case to answer; but let's keep "tolerance" out of the dock.