(MENAFN - Arab News) Employing children to work as beggars is a violation of children's rights, said Sharaf bint Ahmad Al-Grahfi, general supervisor at the National Society of Human Rights in Madinah.
This law should be applied to those who exploit children and should include punishing families who push their children to beg in the streets, exposing them to danger in return for small sums of money.
Al-Grahfi said begging has many forms. Some families use their children to beg on a daily basis, while others take children from their families to employ them as beggars. Beggars often use infants to induce the sympathy of drivers and pedestrians. Teenage girls also beg in streets upon their families' directions. Disabled children are also sent out to beg during the summer and religious seasons. Other children sell mineral water and tissues to drivers at traffic lights.
All these forms of child exploitation are inhumane, said Al-Grahfi. "Begging puts unnecessary pressure on children and endangers their lives because they remain in the scorching heat for long hours, not to mention the danger they are subjected to crossing the roads between moving cars."
Children have a right to a dignified and safe life and families who push their children to engage in such practices are committing a criminal offense, said Al-Grahfi.
Citizens and visitors of the Madinah province have noticed the growing phenomenon of women carrying children and begging at commercial centers and mosques. Beggars often acquire a spot where they stay put for hours. Those who stand at the gates of commercial centers get the lion's share of the alms.
Mohammad Al-Ali, a citizen, called on the Anti-Begging Authority in Madinah to carry out inspection campaigns in places that are known to house beggars because they distort the city's image.
Female beggars, who use their children as a tool to aid them in the begging profession, are mostly foreigners but wear abayas and a face veil to get people to believe they are Saudi. Al-Ali demanded that the identity of children should be verified and that those found guilty of child trafficking should be arrested, he said.
Um Wassan, another citizen, called on imams and storeowners not to let beggars sit on their steps hoping that this would ease the intensity of this phenomenon. "We haven't noticed the Anti-Begging Authority taking on an active role to put a stop to this phenomenon. On the contrary, the number of beggars is on the rise and female beggars continue to compete for the most strategic location," she said.