Begging, Crime and Prostitution

By Jacqueline Loos

Many societies, both rich and poor, have groups of people that are disadvantaged. Social disadvantage takes away not only wealth, but also opportunities for a self-directed life, and the ability to envisage a better future, as I am observing during my field work in Romania. I don’t want to create the impression that Romania is particularly bad – I’m sure there are many other societies in the world with much the same patterns.

In many streets in Romania, people are asking for money – sometimes old people, who say they need medicine, but most of the time I see children, who say they are hungry. And I believe they are not pretending. These kids often don’t wear shoes, and instead of sitting on a school bench I see them strolling around town begging. I feel I have two possibilities: I can give them something, money, some food or whatever I have to give – or I don’t give them anything.

There is one reasonable theory for NOT giving them anything. I don’t want those kids to continue begging, and therefore I should not support their begging by giving them something. If I would like them to learn that they need to find proper work, wouldn’t it be better not to give them anything? And in the end, would I support the kids or will their parents take the money and spend it on alcohol?

But I also see another side: The kids are begging because there is no other way to earn money. Maybe their parents tried, but many of the poor people are systematically disadvantaged. They will not easily find a job, because jobs are rare and money to pay workers is rare. They grow up in poverty, have learned to beg since they were children, and so they send out their children for begging, too. The only luxuries they own might be some stolen mobile phones – and on days when nobody gives them food or money, they depend on stealing, so they have enough to eat. How does not giving the children anything help in any way to overcome this cycle?

I am convinced that most of the poor people do try, or have tried, to earn money. Some are selling handmade copperware, but I always wonder who stops on the main roads to buy these things? For hundreds of years, Romania’s poor were helping on the farms, making the horseshoes and the roof tiles – but now nobody buys the tiles, because cheaper and better ones are imported from Poland. There is no community holding together and supporting those who don’t own land and have no business of their own. As a consequence of people committing (mostly small) crimes, neighbours mistrust them and move away. The disadvantaged live in their own, separate parts in many villages.

By the side of the roads, you can see women dressed in sexy clothes, their hair dyed blonde. Sometimes  they bring their children while waiting for somebody to stop – while they are looking for ‘business’. A friend told me that many of these women have been regularly raped since they were children, so now they try to make money out of what they are used to, anyway. Maybe these prostitutes want to buy medicine as well, for their children, or they don’t have another way how to get out of the vicious circle: No money, no possibilities, no hope.

Who am I to judge this? Once I asked a begging boy before I gave him some money “What do you want to do when you are an adult?” – He shrugged his shoulders… Poverty killed his ability to envisage a better future.

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7 thoughts on “Begging, Crime and Prostitution

  1. Sounds like you feel the problem is systemic — i.e. it’s not the individuals, but rather the system as a whole that is the problem. Meaning people are born into positions where they are disadvantaged. In that case … what can be done to improve the system as a whole with regards to social equity? Is that the kind of solution that would seem more appropriate than supporting individuals who beg?

  2. The ROh system (with this huge uncertainity – e.g. if one count the no. of changes in legistation regarding salarization, business initiatives etc. I would be not surprised if RO is between the first in EU…which is bad…) dont allow you to be proactive. To have a dream, a vision as indivitual or a group, to plan your future, you need a certain – systemic – stability. And this is completely absent from RO. People are very reactive and lost. Leadership… always leadership…Now, how to ‘build a nation’ in such conditions? (ps: things are a bit more complex of course but in a nutshell…these we are…)

  3. “Begging, crime and prostitution” beyond any discussion about causes and development of systems, it is a fact that those three human activities are simplest ones to earn money that`s why they are present in all societies since the beginning of the world and probably will last a lot more than other skills and crafts.
    Why do they appear to be more present in Romania? Maybe because the responsible organizations to fight against those plagues of society do less than they should, and the first in my mind is Romanian Police.

  4. I am wondering if it is up to the police to “fight those plagues”? In my opinion, fighting against begging, crime and prostitution by police often end up in simply covering the fact, that there is immense poverty. Instead of receiving support, people who beg or prostitute themselves get punished and evicted from public places.
    Is it not task of a whole society and its leadership, to find and develop alternatives to those activities?

  5. You pointed very accurate the cause of prostitution, begging and crime, which is “an immense poverty”, the solution to this problem in my point of view should come from economy. The effects of this poverty, prostitution, etc should be disproved by local autority, such as police, etc.
    It is if you like similar to a pacient infected tuberculosis, who has to change his alimentation and way of living but first he has to take pills.
    Question: Are you sure that in most cases the protagonists of crime and protitution have no other alternatives? Even if the alternative involve hard working.

  6. In my opinion these are social problems, that is, there is not one responsable for this. For example: parents are responsible for giving the first values (moral, ethical) to children. They may fail, very often. This failure eventually can be compensated by the educational system (payd from OUR taxes!). But and again: the educational system in RO is anything but educational system not…OK, then lets move to police. Which police? The corrupt one? The helpless one (with 100 euro salary per month one cannot expect miracles…the policeman itself have family, needs and need security and the RO system fails to give these). The church can be a solution – one would think…since RO is a big, orthodox church. But, and not unexpectedly, RO priests are more preoccupied to have fancy cars and big castles than these primitive problems of the earth…What can I do then? To report hem? To who?:(

    In fact the number of prostitutes is visibly increasing in this region. As a sign of puurness and the overall community meltung what is happening here.

  7. Pingback: Happy birthday to our blog: One year of “Ideas4Sustainability” | Ideas for Sustainability

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