In the corner of the market crosswise from the entrance, a woman in her forties kneels on the ground; seeking charity from the market-goers, whose pity appeals to the sight of the young bodies covered before her, usually of a horrific burnt child, or three brown girls, lying on their backs next to each other, succumbing to sleep. often covered with a short quilt covering their bodies except for the face, all of about the same children age.
The girls remain in this static position - except for breathing - without moving or a break for food or drinking water, or responding to the call of nature, for 11 hours of continuous sleep per day. It is the period of time that the woman spends as a daily shift starting from 10:00 am in the morning, when she comes - with her human merchandise - on a private medium bus (mini bus), she got off a short distance from the place, and the bus returns to pick her up at eight in the evening.
Oday Mohammad, a journalist and social activist who lives in the same neighborhood, told "Khuyut" that this woman hires some female kids, with the purpose of begging, after giving them a sleeping drink, to keep them in that calm state throughout the day. He adds, "Ten months ago, she had three different girls who are not with her now, but they are at the same age, and they are not her daughters, of course. This is a network that practices begging with children with disabilities, for a certain profit percentage, and this practice has become very common during the past ten years."
This scene is repeated daily, in similar ways, in the streets of Sanaa, especially in the public markets; You see women accompanied by deformed or sleepy children. As soon as you try to ask one of them, she begins to wail and claim that they are her orphans; The same answer was repeated with the report’s author, by women and men begging for children in different zones of Sana'a, such as: Dariss, Bab al-Yaman, Souk al-Jabali, Al-Sabeen, and Al-Tahrir.
Children with disabilities... an effective hook!
This is only a less widespread method, compared to another more prevalent and effective method, which is begging with children with disabilities or congenitally malformed children, as they are more sympathetic, and it only requires spinning them in markets, mosques, or wedding halls sometimes.
In limited cases, some find it necessary to allow beggary as an abstract case, due to considerations and motives related to the terrible living situation experienced by the vast majority of Yemenis, in light of the armed conflict and its economic, security and demographic consequences, which all Yemenis have suffered.
Despite the remarkable spread of the phenomenon of beggary for children with disabilities - whether they are used by their families directly or by leasing their bodies in return for a percentage of the beggary financial returns - there among extreme carelessness of the concerned authorities in containing these violations of children's rights or at least limiting the spread of these acts.
In addition to the fact that there are no official or unofficial statistics so far, revealing the actual number of children with disabilities involved in the phenomenon of begging - coerced or voluntarily - and all the numbers circulated by some are just discretionary judgments and nothing more, according to the statement of the Professor Hassan Ardom - Public Relations and Media Officer at the Social Fund for Welfare and Rehabilitation of the handicapped, for "Khuyut".
Accordingly, Ardom indicates that the percentage of “people with disabilities” in any stable country in the world, according to the World Health Organization, is 10%, while in Yemen, the percentage reaches 15%, which is equivalent to 4.5 million “disabled people.” According to 2006 statistics, at most 5% of them are children.
He also pointed out that there are number of "factors that force the family use their disabled child to beg, in light of the poverty and the miserable situation in the country, where some families are forced to take from their disabled child a way to earn, instead of trying to develop his skills and make him an active element in society."
Children buried in the cradle
From a humanitarian point of view, the official of youth and teenagers at the Ministry of Human Rights, and the country director of the Nama Network for Defending Human Rights - Yemen Branch, Mutahar Al-Khidhimi, in a statement to "Khuyut", confirmed that the danger of the spread of the phenomenon of renting children for the purpose of begging, whether they are children with disabilities or normal, is considered contrary to human values and the norms of the Yemeni society, as it is – according to him- "a shocking transgression of all normal principles in insulting the humanity of humans, when it becomes like any material belongings that can be rented and loaned."
However, the consequences do not stop at violating the moral value of the child’s humanity during a period of his life, but it may extend to accompany his life to the end, and abort his future in the cradle, on the health and psychological levels, as per doctor Hayat Samir explanation to “Khuyut.”
Regarding the harms of giving children hypnotic drugs, Samir says: “These are generally very harmful if used repeatedly, and can destroy the child’s nervous system, and damage his future forever, as a result of sleeping for long hours with the effect of those drugs that should only be dispensed with a medical prescription and at a rate of certain dose even for adults.
Blaming Poverty for begging
In limited cases, some find it necessary to allow beggary as an abstract case, due to considerations and motives related to the terrible living conditions experienced by the vast majority of Yemenis, in light of the armed conflict and its economic, security and demographic consequences, which all Yemenis have suffered.
However, this space of social permissiveness is completely vanishing when it comes to children, especially those with physical or mental “disabilities” taking the hook of itinerant beggars, as well as renting their bodies to begging networks, which according to Yemeni law, is an actual and a kind of criminal offense and a type of human trafficking.
Nonetheless, moral, legal and social precautions become - in the absence of a regulatory and rule of law by the competent authorities – become insufficient alone, to prevent abuses and deter those involved, just as is the case now in Sana'a and other Yemeni governorates.
In light of his professional specialization and his direct contact with thousands of people with disabilities and their families, during the past five years, Ardom said: “It has often happened that we offered to assist in the treatment of children with curable disabilities, but their families refused! Since the source of the family's income depends on the child's remaining in the state of disability, and in the future this child will be with shaky personality, unable to integrate into society or rely on himself without resorting to beggary.
According to Ardoum, the impact of such practice is not limited to the child alone, but may extend its impact to the society, "and this places the responsibility on the media and the community in raising awareness, and convincing families that take advantage of the child's disability in begging, about this inhuman behavior," he said.
This report was published with the support of JDH/JHR - Reporters for Human Rights and Global Affairs in Canada.