Infant-toting beggars to be charged with child exploitation
The National Commission for Children Protection (Komnas PA) said that it backed the Jakarta administration’s plan to charge beggars under the child protection law for bringing infants, who are not their own, to the street.
Chairman of Komnas PA, Arist Merdeka Sirait, said that the city government should apply the law consistently throughout the year and not only during Ramadhan, which is the peak time for beggars to hit the city streets.
“If the city conducts the raids only during Ramadhan and Idul Fitri, it will do nothing to stop child exploitation in the long run,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
Arist also called on the city government to solve the root causes of begging and vagrancy.
“Maybe the real problem lies with urbanization. Whatever the real problem is, the city government must not be content with arresting beggars from the streets,” he said.
Baby beggars: Mothers carry infants while begging on Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan in East Jakarta. The Jakarta Public Order Agency said it would arrest infant-toting beggars and report them to the Jakarta Police on suspicions of children trafficking. JP/Ricky Yudhistira
To maintain public order during Ramadhan, the Jakarta Public Order Agency — in collaboration with the City Social Affairs Agency — will arrest infant-toting beggars and question them on suspicion of child-trafficking.
Head of the Public Order Agency, Effendi Anas, said that beggars suspected of child-trafficking activities would be handed over to the city’s police.
Effendi said that the Jakarta Police had agreed to charge infant-carrying beggars with Law No. 23/2002 on child protection, which carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a Rp 200 million (US$23,600) fine.
He said that the majority of beggars “rent” infants from their parents for Rp 35,000 per day.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Baharudin Djafar said the police would throw their weight behind the city government’s plan to stop child exploiation.
Police had said earlier that the rising number of child kidnappings in the period leading up to Ramadhan could have something to do with the human-trafficking business, which catered to the needs of beggars who ply the roads with infants and children as their accessories.
People from outside Jakarta habitually swarm to the city to work as beggars during the Ramadhan period, during which well-off people frequently hand out alms to the poor. Beggars usually “rent” infants and toddlers to gain pity from those giving alms.
During Ramadhan, the public order agency will crack down on beggars in two stages.
In the first stage, which will last until Aug. 15, beggars who are arrested will be sent back to their hometowns.
However, those arrested during the second stage, which will run from Aug. 16 to Sept. 2, will be held in city-run shelters until the holiday season is over.
The city has prepared three shelters, with each one capable of holding between 250 and 300 people.
Separately, Social Affairs Minister, Salim Segaf, said the ministry is preparing a circular to be distributed to local administrations in the country to intensify their clamp down on seasonal beggars.
He said that with coordination between local governments, efforts could be made to prevent seasonal beggars from entering major cities around the country.
Salim also said that the ministry would support any measures taken by the police to prosecute beggars who use infants and children in their activities.
As for street children, Segaf said that public order officers and the police should be more lenient.
“For street children who roam the street during Ramadhan, we will not hold a crack down. That would be a violation of their rights. We will rely on persuasion and for this we will dispatch volunteers trained to handle them,” he said.