Begging and Peddling Operations

True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial.
It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.
-Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968)  

Deformed child begging, China

On the first day I only earned 20 yuan from begging. They beat me up.”
~ Yang Ping, girl with spinal deformity sold to a begging ring in Beijing

Child begging may sound innocuous, but many of these children are subject to extreme abuse including willful mutilation to make them more easily pitied, and thus better potential earners. They may be disfigured by having an eye gouged out, a limb amputated, or being otherwise visibly scarred. Most children are bought or kidnapped, then forced to beg or pick pockets on the streets under threat of beatings and worse. Their keeper takes all their earnings of course. In some parts of the world these operations actually masquerade as charities such as orphanages for whom the victims are ostensibly collecting contributions.

Peddling rackets are closely related to begging rings. Even here in New York City there have been cases where street peddlers were working to pay off alleged debts to their traffickers. One ring here in the city was prosecuted for bringing deaf Mexican children into the country illegally for the purpose of setting them to work in the subway system selling cheap trinkets. These operations may employ both children and adults.

In both begging and peddling operations, the size of the enterprise may vary widely. A trafficker may “buy” a single deformed child from his impoverished parents and set him out to work. A victim may be set out to peddle a limited output of handcrafts. At the other end of the spectrum are large syndicates that employ scouts, middlemen, transport crews and essentially run schools for beggars not unlike that of the character Fagin, made famous in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Children are schooled as pickpockets, con-artists, muggers and petty thieves. Infants may be kidnapped for use as props. Police may be bribed. Corruption may reach higher levels. Unscrupulous doctors are employed to disfigure children. This level of inhumane abuse is hard to fathom. Yet it occurs in most major cities where grinding poverty makes simple survival a cruel challenge.

Begging For Change, Anti-Slavery International, 2009. Research findings and recommendations on forced child begging in Albania/Greece, India and Senegal. Insightful study of this issue with good graphics. (33 pgs)

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