By Felicia Browne
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- In the Caribbean, there is growing concern over child labour and indirect forms of begging. Children are being seen working various forms of street hustling such as the selling of counterfeit movies, stolen electronic devices, or local produce like fruits and vegetables. In more severe cases, child’s rights advocates have reported a high incidence of sexual abuse of children who are expected to provide for themselves.
These economic burdens that are placed on children can have a devastating impact on their lives. Many of these children are lured in various forms of illicit activities, like child pornography, theft, gang-violence and child-trafficking.
Child trafficking has become a serious concern for many Caribbean societies, in particular as many are struggling with their economic and social inequalities. Child trafficking can take various forms, including but not limited to forced child begging, sexual exploitation, child pornography, child marriage and child soldiers.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has also reported that the numbers of children being trafficked across the globe are mainly trafficked to engage in street begging, prostitution and crimes like stealing.
The rights of children are often under-evaluated. It is known that children under the age of 18 years are often forced to work to provide for their families. Many of these children die as the result of the harsh environments that their tender and under-nourished bodies endure. As a result, developing nations have designed specific guidelines to protect children from social implications that have had dire effects on their lives.
The Caribbean region is not immune to child exploitation. In various countries, during the vacation or school breaks, children can be seen begging for money, food supplies and other forms of basic necessities. Some of these children, because of the harsh economic realities of their households, are placed in unbearable dilemmas to contribute to their families’ misfortunes.
Many families believe that it is harmless to have their children participate in the economic contributions of the household, but many are unaware of the dangers that their children may face if they are placed in unsupervised environments.
The difficulties in curbing child begging are mainly due to the fact that children are minors and the guardians are usually the ones who enforce their activities. As a result, these vulnerable minors are coerced by a family member or loved ones to take up their responsibilities by becoming economic providers for their families.