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International Campaign to Immediately Ban Child Begging in Senegal
and West Africa
"Imagine a world where every child has a place to sleep, enough to eat, a classroom, and good health necessary to learn, develop and thrive. A world where all children have the opportunity to realize their potential, and where everyone's rights are respected ." UNICEF, June 2015.
How is it possible in this world for a child to be the focus of attention and the concerns of all if he must undergo detachment from his parents, the atrocity and greed of corrupt, self-proclaimed religious leaders, the onslaught of pedophiles, and the influence of other perpetrators of violence?
The first and most compelling image of any West African city, particularly Dakar, capital of Senegal, is the picture of “Talibé". These young boys aged between 04 and 12 years old, are ragged, barefoot, bodies often filled with wounds, physically ill, weak and lacking in dignity and attention. Their daily mission is to beg in traffic, through cars, at the peril of their lives (they are often killed by vehicles), in markets, suffering the mistrust and contempt of merchandisers who see them as petty thieves (actually they often fear marauding not to return to the "Dahara" empty handed), in houses, where they sometimes fall upon pedophiles and other dangerous people where they are raped and murdered.
These “Carved” or street children who are resigned to the street without much interest from the city or country itself, which cares more about its politics and appearances, number 150,000 in Senegal with 50,000 in Dakar. They come from modest Muslim families, sent to learn the Holy Quran to be called marabouts, or religious leaders. They leave their villages to settle in large cities, their parents hoping they will have good educations and futures. Even if all the children in the street are not "talibés" according to a UNICEF study in 2007, they represent 90% of children begging in the street.
They are often entrusted to marabouts by their parents, who wish to give their child an educational space and opportunity for the future. It is not uncommon to hear a parent who entrusts her child to a marabout say, "I only ask you his bones if he disobeys; you're right about his life." which means the parent, entrusting the child to the marabout, becomes completely detached from him. "I only ask his bones" means that even if the child dies, the marabout would have no explanation to give to the parent; that the well-being of the child is now the responsibility of the child’s new guardian, the marabout.
These words give the marabout all the rights over the child.
For these marabouts, their income depends the begging of his disciples, or children, who must return to the house (“dahara”) daily with a sum of money. Failure to fulfill this obligation is subject to excruciatingly severe punishment. Sometimes the punishments in "daharas" cause the death of a child, a practice which has continued now for decades.
It is for fear of the beatings that children are desperate to raise the money required. Thus, they put themselves into dangerous situations and are exposed to inhumane acts of pedophiles, the influence of offenders and exploitation of any kind, including their recruitment by armed groups, drug traffickers and pimps. Indeed, there is a clear correlation between street children and security.
It’s not only within the country of Senegal that parents bequeath their children to the life of talibe: there are children (boys and girls) who cross borders from Guinea, Gambia, Mali, among others countries with their “new” parents, the marabouts. Once arrived in Senegal, they are exploited in all possible ways provided they are profitable in the activity. In this sense, one cannot separate child begging from child trafficking, the greatest violation of human rights.
West Africa is the most affected world region trafficking in children. Despite all the international and national legislation on children's rights, the problem persists and is promoted by child begging which becomes a source of enrichment for people who usurp position and authority in the name of religion. The international convention on children's rights recognizes children's fundamental rights, mandatory and non-negotiable. This treaty of human rights is the most widely ratified of history, according to UNICEF. But what about its implementation?
In Article 2.2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Member States have committed themselves to take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment motivated by legal status, activities, declarees opinions or beliefs of the child's parents, legal guardians and family members;
- In Article 3.2, they are committed to ensure the child such protection and care necessary for their well-being, and to this end, they must take all appropriate legislative and administrative measures;
In Article 3.3 of the Convention, they are required to ensure that there are institutions, services and establishments that are in charge of children and ensure their protection conform to the standards set in the area safety and health;
- In Article 6, they recognize that every child has the inherent right to life;
- In Article 7, they recognize that the child must have a civil state;
- In Article 11, they shall take measures to fight against the illicit transfer and non-return of children for profit;
- In Article 16, they ensure that no child shall be the object of arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation;
- In section 19.1, they shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child against all forms of violence, physical injury or abuse, mental neglect or physical neglect, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse;
- In the article 27.1 they recognize for every child the right to a standard of adequate living for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development;
- In Article 29.1, they are committed to providing a framework for the development of the child's personality and the development of his talents and mental and physical abilities to the fullest extent of his potential;
- In section 32.1, they recognize the child's right to be protected against economic exploitation and from performing any work that is hazardous or likely to compromise his education or harm his health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development;
- In Article 34, they undertake to protect the child against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse;
- In Article 35 they undertake to take all appropriate measures at the national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent the abduction, sale or trafficking of children for any purpose whatsoever and in any form whatsoever;
- In Article 4, they shall take all appropriate legislative, Administrative and other measures to implement the rights re-known in the convention on the rights of children.
Moreover, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, a charter inspired considerably by the United Nations Convention on Children's Rights and the Declaration on the Rights and Welfare of the African Child, which has been adopted by the Organization of African Unity, now African Union in its Article 21, calls upon all States to take "all appropriate measures to eliminate negative customs and cultural and social practices that are detrimental to the well being, dignity, normal growth and development of the child ... "
The Charter also guarantees every child "the inalienable right; right to life (Article 4), right to education (Article 11), protection against exploitation and ill-treatment” (articles 15, 26, 27, 29); the right to health (Article 14).
Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of Children protects children against all forms of discrimination; child talibes, though, are excluded from its conventions. Is this not a stigma? These children receive no state law offered by the different international, continental, regional and national legislations for the protection of children.
On July 26, 2015 in Dakar (Yeumbeul) Dame Niane, talibé aged 12, was beaten to death by his marabout;
On August 10, 2015, in Thies, Senegal Pape Ndiaye, Talibé aged 8 years, slain by a man;
In 2008, in Kaolack, Senegal MB beaten to death by his marabout because he came home without the requested sum of money;
In March 2015, in St. Louis, Senegal a talibé was tied up, beaten and tortured by his marabout,
In 2013, Dakar, Senegal 9 Talibés died, suffocating and burning to death in a fire in the room they were locked in by their marabout (who didn’t stay at the squalid home);
In Saly, Mbour, Senegal, a 9-year Talibé was sexually violated;
April, 2011, a marabout was accused of raping his Talibé.
July 31, 2013, a Talibé was violated in the forest at Mbao, Dakar.
This list is just some examples of the atrocities suffered by these children. They are also very often violated by tourists.
For these children, “the promise of the Convention was not held: their rights were brutally violated, dashing their hopes and dreams for a better life,” according to UNICEF’s findings.
Therefore, we are launching an international campaign to remind the United Nations, international continental, regional and national institutions of their commitment to children. For "much more than symbolic texts, the conventions are legally binding on the signatory states, which are committed to defend and guarantee the rights of all children without discrimination, and to respond to these commitments to the United Nations." To this effect, the US International Community, demands that:
1- The UN expert committee shall convene a meeting to discuss the issue in the countries of West Africa in order to provide appropriate solutions;
2- The African Union requires the effective implementation of the African Charter on the rights of children and to this effect introduces without delay a motion to ban child begging in the West African region;
3- UNICEF, whose work base is the Convention on the Rights of the child, supports the installation of transition centers to facilitate the social reintegration of children and implements their return to their families;
4- western states prohibit in their territories the installation of any "dahara" (Koranic school) unstructured, which can not guarantee the safety of children.
Signed this day in Dakar August 12, 2015