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The Business of Child Begging in Bangladesh: How Gangs Use Children to Earn Money
Are Child Beggars in Bangladesh Begging For Themselves?
It is well known that Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world. For example, out of the 45 million who live in Bangladesh, about 1/3 live below the poverty line and even more live in extreme poverty. Poverty is such a severe problem in Bangladesh, that in rural areas about 36% of the population live in poverty while in urban areas, this number is at least 28%. Beggars are a common sight in Bangladesh cities and villages, most of them children. However, there is an ugly truth behind most of these child beggars: they have been forced to beg by a gang, who has most likely kidnapped the child, mutilated them, and is using them for profit and/or to get back at the child's family who is unable to repay a debt. This article will serve as an introduction to their plight, and some thoughts on what can be done to help these children.
Who Are the Child Beggars of Bangladesh?
There are many reasons why a child might be found on a street in a Bengal city begging, however one of the most common reasons is because they have been kidnapped by a gang, which is using the child for profit. These children originally were orphans, or children with families. The children either become a victim of the gang because they were there at the wrong time, wrong place or their parents owe someone in the gang a financial debt, and the child is taken as collateral. The recent incident with the seven-year-old boy in Dhaka, Bangladesh is a perfect example. Apparently, the boy's father got into an argument with a local tea vendor about a debt; the tea vendor was involved with a very powerful gang, who decided to kidnap the man's son with the intention of using him for begging. The boy was brutally mutilated, with knife slashes on his neck, chest and genitals. The boy survived, and is now involved in one of the largest legal cases ever established to target these gangs and start putting these perpetrators to justice. However, not all these children are so lucky.
What Happens to These Children Once Kidnapped?
Once these children are kidnapped, they are housed in secret locations by the gang. The children are mutilated by gang members with the specific purpose of gaining sympathy from pedestrians to give the children money. The money is then given to the gang, which uses the profits for their own, illegal uses.
Apart from that, the international community doesn't know anything else about what happens to the kidnapped children, the gangs and how to better assist these children. There are several takes as to why this is such a hard issue to resolve. First, there is not enough data on missing children in Bangladesh that can really help the international community with catching these perpetrators, and identifying which children were indeed kidnapped by these gangs and used for begging. Second, it is highly believed, especially after this incident with the seven year old boy in Dhaka, that many of the gang members are influential individuals in society and politics and will do whatever they can to make sure they aren't caught. Once again, this places the child, his or her family, and the legal officials not only in danger, but caught in a web of intrigue in order to find these perpetrators and help the children.
How To Help These Children?
Like with most issues pertaining to children's rights, it comes down to the simple fact that there is not enough data on the issue and there isn't really someone gathering it. Therefore, one solution to this problem is that more people will take the effort to learn about the relationship between gangs and child beggars in Bangladesh so that the international community can better assist them.
In regards to dealing with the gangs and putting these perpetrators to justice, once again, it will take knowledge. Once the international community is more aware as to how these gangs work, whose involved, what they do, where they keep the children and why it is so hard for the children to go back to their parents, there is a greater chance we can help these children get home and feel safe again. There are efforts by NGOs and human rights activists however, to make sure that children involved in these issues get the legal assistance they need, but also make sure they have places to stay. Several safe houses have been established to help former child beggars in Bangladesh find refuge off the streets. However, this is merely a start. It's going to take an effort on the world' part to learn more about this issue in order to better target the perpetrators, and figure out how to help protect the rights of the children who become vulnerable to these gangs.
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