You should never give money, pens or candy to child beggars and I’ll explain why but that doesn’t mean you have to turn your backs on them. You can do a tremendous amount to help child beggars, but if you think you’re helping them by succumbing to their begging then you’re mistaken. Your good intentions are actually harmful and perpetuating a devastating cycle of poverty and suffering.
About 60,000 children disappear in India every year and some human rights groups believe that the real number is actually much higher than this. Many are kidnapped and made to beg for organized gangs. According to UNICEF these children aren’t allowed to go to school and are starved so that they’ll look ill and cry more to garner more sympathy.
Disfigured and disabled child beggars get even more sympathy from tourists and therefore make more money begging. For this reason the gangs often cut out a child’s eyes, amputate arms or legs or burn their face with acid to increase profits. To stop the children from running away the traffickers keep them addicted to opium or other drugs.
When a tourist takes pity on a child beggar, as anyone would, and gives that child money, food or anything they can turn around and sell, they are funding a truly horrific business model. When the traffickers are making such good money from the generosity of tourists they continue to use that money to abduct, enslave and maim even more children. The cycle continues until people stop giving. As trafficked children get too old to beg effectively they're sometimes forced into prostitution or the black-market organ trade. Click To Tweet
Surely pens and candy are ok to give to child beggars?
Nope! Travelers who give child beggars pens are firstly undermining the children’s parents and interfering with the family’s social dynamic. The parents can’t afford to give those things to the child, is it really your place to step in and do so instead? Who do you think you are? The pens will likely get sold and money will be obtained that way. Besides chalk is used in most schools not pens. Secondly you’re undercutting local businesses by providing free gifts to kids. The local business owners may be selling what you’re giving away for free and they have mouths to feed too.
How To Really Help Child Beggars
Giving candy and sweets to child beggars is another well-intentioned but bad idea. Do you think those children own a toothbrush and toothpaste? Many communities do not have the resources to treat tooth decay. Unless you know the community well and have a long term relationship with it you just can’t be sure that your generosity isn’t doing more harm than good. If you want to give to the children do so indirectly. Save the Children is an organization that works to liberate people from modern-day slavery and this includes forced begging.
What a depressing blog post, I apologize, I do prefer to keep things light-hearted and fun but I can’t write about wonderful, beautiful India, my favorite place in the world (along with Arizona) and brush this under the carpet. I can’t write about How To Deal With The Indian Begging Industry and not also mention the child beggars. However trafficking children for organized begging goes on all over the world, certainly not just in India. The Philippines, Pakistan, Senegal and even in the USA and some European countries too. No country is perfect and every country has it’s dark side.
Read the Jetset Bunny Guide To India including the basics, things to do, eat, stay and plan: India Travel Tips
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