Begging in Ramadan: Need or Fraud?

Asma al-Mohattwari

Though a familiar phenomenon all throughout the year in Yemeni society, street begging increases in the weeks during the holy month of Ramadan. With the beginning of Ramadan, the begging phenomenon becomes very worrying, and beggars spread to several spaces, dramatically affecting both urban and rural areas. In Ramadan, beggars stand in the streets, commercial markets, mosques, the homes of businessmen and traders, as well as institutions and companies.

A recent study targeting eight Yemeni provinces estimated that the total number of child beggars is around 30,000 boys and girls under the age of 18. This number does not include elderly males and females who come out to beg because of difficult living conditions and extreme poverty.

Most of the children who are begging also have begging parents, as if begging has become inherited among the family and an easy way to get money. Ali Al-Hakmi and his family is an example. Not one of his children attended school, and he sent five of his children into the streets to beg, all except the youngest one as he was clearly too young to do so.

“My older son is 17 years old and he doesn’t even know how to hold a pencil; instead of sending him to school, I sent him into the streets to beg, clean, sell and basically do any kind of works there is in the streets,” said Ali.

Poverty and need compelled Ali to order his two daughters to beg; when they’re in the street, he watches them from afar. At the end of the day, Ali takes what they’ve earned, spends some on qat and brings the rest home.

As Ali said, he tried many time to find a job but no one agreed to employ him because of his various health issues. He said his future had been destroyed before and now his children’s future is being destroyed before his eyes and he feels he can do nothing for them.

In Ramadan, it could be argued that beggars exploit the sentiment of mercy and people’s added tolerance with each other in the holy month. Many citizens do their best to comfort those in need and help them with money, food, and other things, regardless of whether the beggar is truly in need or a hustler.

During Ramadan, beggars find new ways to beg, such as knocking on the doors of houses in order to receive money, gathering in front of the mosques’ gates to ask for money after prayers, and some enter the mosque and when they finish prayers and take the microphone and talk about their need for money.

Not all the beggars’ stories are true and Yemeni society discovers the beggars lies and avoid giving them any money. According to unofficial studies, the number of beggars in Yemen reached 1.2 million beggars of different ages and sexes. The study said that families exploit their children to beg because people sympathize more with kids.

It is recognized that Yemeni Law No. 45 of 2002 on Children’s Rights requires the state to take necessary measures to aid children suffering from difficult living circumstances such as street children, homeless children, and children who are exposed to abuse, exploited or lured into performing illegal acts.

But still, the number of street children only continues to increase. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor attributed the reason for this phenomenon to low standards of living, poverty, and difficult economic and political conditions within the country.