Jillian Keenan describes organized begging as “one of the most visible forms of human trafficking – and [one] largely financed and enabled by good-hearted people who just want to help”:
In India, roughly 60,000 children disappear each year, according to official statistics. (Some human rights groups estimate that the actual number is much higher than that.) Many of these children are kidnapped and forced to work as beggars for organized, mafia-like criminal groups. According to UNICEF, Human Rights Watch, and the U.S. State Department, these children aren’t allowed to keep their earnings or go to school, and are often starved so that they will look gaunt and cry, thereby eliciting more sympathy – and donations – from tourists.
It’s not just India:
According to one U.S. State Department report, a man in Shenzhen, China, can earn as much as $40,000 per year by forcing enslaved children to beg. Horrific examples of trafficking in children (and the elderly) for the purposes of organized begging have been found in countries all over the world: Bolivia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Senegal, Pakistan – even Austria, other European countries, and the United States. No country is immune to human trafficking. … So when we, well-intentioned tourists, give money directly to child beggars, there’s a decent chance we’re actually lining the pockets of criminals who will turn around and use that money to abduct, enslave, rape, torture, and maim even more kids.
(Photo: Three beg children are seen at a rescue station after they were rescued by police on February 13, 2011 in Guiyang, Guizhou province of China. More than 9,300 kidnapped children in China have been rescued since April 2009, when a nationwide campaign was launched to crack down on human trafficking. In less than three weeks, a Chinese microblog called ‘Street Photos to Rescue Child Beggars’ attracted 175,000 followers and posted more than 2,500 images of begging children online for parents to identify. By ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)