When writing this blog post I had to really explore this idea of children beggars. During my time in Cambodia I’ve experienced it firsthand. As a tourist in this country I found the concept quite confronting and saddening. The four of us in Phnom Penh were having dinner on the riverside which is a big tourist area. During the evening about 5 children came to our table and tried to sell bracelets. We asked the kids names and age, they were all 5-10 years old. Personally that scares me, that children of this age group are on a busy tourist filled street at night by themselves firstly, and then from that age learning it’s okay to talk to strangers and hug them for the goal of making a dollar.
Continuing from that, learning from a young age that if a foreigner says “no thanks” that they should stay and keep trying to get money. Exploring this from a sociology perspective, these kids’ primary socialisation compared to the western world is just phenomenal. The values of begging and exploitation to get money is also concrete within this important time in a child’s development.
Jillian Keenan wrote an article on this issue and discussed how giving money to children beggars is problematic. Keenan refers to giving money to a child beggar as “…the most destructive thing”. This emotional language surprised me quite a lot as I didn’t realise the damage that giving less than $10 could do. Keenan continues throughout her article exploring the background of organised begging. The concept of “organised begging” in an issue worldwide and to put in Keenan’s words “No country is immune to human trafficking.” Organised Begging is a form of human trafficking that mafia like criminal groups kidnap children and force them to beg on the street to tourists. An official statistic highlights that in India, 60,000 children disappear each year. Other Human rights groups estimate a higher number than that. These criminal groups abuse and starve these kids to make them look more helpless for tourists. These groups realise that the skinnier and sicker looking kids create more financial profit.
Expanding upon this, more of these criminal groups “cut out the children’s eyes, scar their faces with acid and amputate limbs” (Keenan, 2014). The more visible the disability, the more money can be made. It is that simple. A News channel who were researching children beggars and went undercover, found that doctors would amputate children’s legs for $200. For myself, that’s just unbelievable that someone in the medical profession would go along with a procedure like that. To make things worse, if the children do not make enough money they can be subjected to torture, rape and violence. If we as tourists give these children money we are feeding back into this disgusting human trafficking cycle, empowering criminal groups to abduct, enslave, rape and torture more children. Keenan states that these criminal groups get the kids addicted to opium and other similar drugs so that they will not run away. Personally, the saddest part of this situation is what happens after the children have grown too old for these criminal groups. Children are forced “…into prostitution, the black-market organ trade, or other gruesome fates.” It’s safe to say this issue is a complex and difficult problem to tackle from both an western or tourist perspective and also the governments perspective.
I believe at the end of the day, giving any money to children beggars is morally wrong and I understand how hard it is to say no to children who are clearly in pain and in constant fear. I believe that by giving money to these kids we are not helping them at all. The more informed a person travelling overseas, the better for the country that they are travelling to. Tourists should fully understand the issue before they land in the country. I also think researching effective ways to help these kids is important. If you are interested in helping, I found an organisation called Cambodian Childrens Fund (CCF). CCF provides children beggars programs in; Education, Childcare, Healthcare, Community Outreach, Vocational Training and Child Protection Unit. For more information please visit, https://www.cambodianchildrensfund.org/