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English - Executive summary of the backs of the children

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Resum executiu original de l'informe general de Human Rigth Watch a Senegal, 2010.

Resum executiu original de l'informe general de Human Rigth Watch a Senegal, 2010.

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  • 1. Senegal H U M A N“Off the Backs of the Children” R I G H T SForced Begging and Other Abuses against Talibés in Senegal W A T C H
  • 2. Summary and RecommendationsHuman Rights Watch | April 2010
  • 3. A group of talibés walk through a neighborhood on theirway to beg. Talibés beg on average for seven hours a day.© 2008 Thomas Lekfeldt
  • 4. “OFF THE BACKSOF THE CHILDREN”Forced Begging and Other Abuses against Talibés in Senegal
  • 5. I have to bring money, rice, and sugar eachday. When I can’t bring everything, themarabout beats me. He beats me other timestoo, even when I do bring the sum….I want to stop this, but I can’t.I can’t leave, I have nowhere to go.Modou S., 12-year-old talibé in Saint-LouisThe teachings of Islam are completelycontrary to sending children on the streetand forcing them to beg….Certain marabouts have ignored this—they love the comfort, the money they receivefrom living off the backs of the childrenAliou Seydi, marabout in KoldaAt least 50,000 children attending hundreds ofresidential Quranic schools, or daaras, inSenegal are subjected to conditions akin toslavery and forced to endure often extremeforms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation bythe teachers, or marabouts, who serve as theirde facto guardians. By no means do all Quranicschools run such regimes, but many maraboutsforce the children, known as talibés, to beg onthe streets for long hours—a practice thatmeets the International Labour Organization’s(ILO) definition of a worst form of child labor—and subject them to often brutal physical andpsychological abuse. The marabouts are alsogrossly negligent in fulfilling the children’sbasic needs, including food, shelter, andhealthcare, despite adequate resources inmost urban daaras, brought in primarily by thechildren themselves.In hundreds of urban daaras in Senegal, it is the children who which some marabouts enjoy relative affluence. In thousandsprovide for the marabout. While talibés live in complete of cases where the marabout transports or receives talibés fordeprivation, marabouts in many daaras demand considerable the purpose of exploitation, the child is also a victim ofdaily sums from dozens of children in their care, through trafficking.4 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 6. The Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean governments, Islamic A talibé begs for money from a taxi driver. Talibés often beg on busyauthorities under whose auspices the schools allegedly streets and intersections to improve their odds of obtaining the daily quota, leaving them vulnerable to car accidents and other dangers.operate, and parents have all failed miserably to protect tens Further exacerbating the difficult conditions on the street, more than 40 percent of talibés interviewed by Human Rights Watch did not have a single pair of shoes. © 2008 Thomas LekfeldtHuman Rights Watch | April 2010 5
  • 7. (above) Because of overcrowding, many talibés are forced to sleep The children routinely sleep 30 to a smalloutside with minimal, if any, cover to protect them from cold nightsduring Senegal’s winter, as is the case in this daara in a Dakar suburb. room, crammed so tight that, particularly(left) Scores of talibés await the opportunity to receive alms during the hot season, they choose tooutside a mosque in Dakar. brave the elements outside.© 2010 Ricci Shryockof thousands of these children from abuse, and have not often barefoot, they hold out a small plastic bowl or empty canmade any significant effort to hold the perpetrators hoping for alms. On the street they are exposed to disease,accountable. Conditions in the daaras, including the the risk of injury or death from car accidents, and physical andtreatment of children within them, remain essentially sometimes sexual abuse by adults.unregulated by the authorities. Well-intentioned aid agencies In a typical urban daara, the teacher requires his talibés toattempting to fill the protection gap have too often bring a sum of money, rice, and sugar every day, but little ofemboldened the perpetrators by giving aid directly to the this benefits the children. Many children are terrified aboutmarabouts who abuse talibés, insufficiently monitoring the what will happen to them if they fail to meet the quota, for theimpact or use of such aid, and failing to report abuse. punishment—physical abuse meted out by the marabout orMoved from their villages in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau to his assistant—is generally swift and severe, involvingcities in Senegal, talibés are forced to beg for up to 10 hours a beatings with electric cable, a club, or a cane. Some areday. Morning to night, the landscape of Senegal’s cities is bound or chained while beaten, or are forced into stressdotted with the sight of the boys—the vast majority under 12 positions. Those captured after a failed attempt to run awayyears old and many as young as four—shuffling in small suffer the most severe abuse. Weeks or months after havinggroups through the streets; weaving in and out of traffic; and escaped the daara, some 20 boys showed Human Rightswaiting outside shopping centers, marketplaces, banks, and Watch scars and welts on their backs that were left by arestaurants. Dressed in filthy, torn, and oversized shirts, and teacher’s beatings.Human Rights Watch | April 2010 7
  • 8. Daily life for these children is one of extreme deprivation.Despite bringing money and rice to the daara, the children areforced to beg for their meals on the street. Some steal or digthrough trash in order to find something to eat. The majoritysuffer from constant hunger and mild to severe malnutrition.When a child falls ill, which happens often with long hours onthe street and poor sanitary conditions in the daara, theteacher seldom offers healthcare assistance. The children areforced to spend even longer begging to purchase medicines totreat the stomach parasites, malaria, and skin diseases thatrun rampant through the daaras. Most of the urban daaras aresituated in abandoned, partially constructed structures ormakeshift thatched compounds. The children routinely sleep30 to a small room, crammed so tight that, particularly duringthe hot season, they choose to brave the elements outside.During Senegal’s four-month winter, the talibés suffer the coldwith little or no cover, and, in some cases, even a mat to sleep on.Unfed by the marabout, untreated when sick,forced to work for long hours only to turnover money and rice to someone who usesalmost none of it for their benefit—and thenbeaten whenever they fail to reach thequota—hundreds, likely thousands, oftalibés run away from daaras each year.Many marabouts leave their daara for weeks at a time toreturn to their villages or to recruit more children, placingtalibés as young as four in the care of teenage assistants whooften brutalize the youngest and sometimes subject them tosexual abuse.In hundreds of urban daaras, the marabouts appear toprioritize forced begging over Quranic learning. With theirdays generally consumed with required activity from the pre-dawn prayer until late into the evening, the talibés rarely havetime to access forms of education that would equip them withbasic skills, or for normal childhood activities and recreation,including the otherwise ubiquitous game of football. In somecases, they are even beaten for taking time to play, bymarabouts who see it as a distraction from begging.Marabouts who exploit children make little to no effort tofacilitate even periodic contact between the talibés and their Unfed by the marabout, untreated when sick, forced to workparents. The proliferation of mobile phones and network for long hours only to turn over money and rice to someonecoverage into even the most isolated villages in Senegal and who uses almost none of it for their benefit—and then beatenGuinea-Bissau should make contact easy, but the vast whenever they fail to reach the quota—hundreds, likelymajority of talibés never speak with their families. In many thousands, of talibés run away from daaras each year. Manycases, preventing contact appears to be a strategy employed talibés plan their escape, knowing the exact location ofby the marabout. runaway shelters. Others choose life on the streets over the conditions in the daara. As a result, a defining legacy of the present-day urban daara is the growing problem of street8 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 9. children, who are thrust into a life often marked by drugs, A seven-year-old talibé, who was severely beaten by his Quranic teacher, isabuse, and violence. fanned by a relative in a hospital in Kaolack, Senegal. © 2008 AP PhotoThe exploitation and abuse of the talibés occurs within acontext of traditional religious education, migration, and Yet for at least 50,000 children, includingpoverty. For centuries, the daara has been a central institutionof learning in Senegal. Parents have long sent their children to many brought from neighboring countries,a marabout—frequently a relative or someone from the same marabouts have profited from the absence ofvillage—with whom they resided until completing their government regulation by twisting religiousQuranic studies. Traditionally, children focused on their education into economic exploitation.Human Rights Watch | April 2010 9
  • 10. A group of talibés study the Quran in their daara. and international law. Senegal has applicable laws on the© 2008 Thomas Lekfeldt books, but they are scant enforced. Senegal is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and all major internationalRather than hold marabouts accountable for and regional treaties on child labor and trafficking, whichforced begging, gross neglect, or, in all but provide clear prohibitions against the worst forms of childthe rarest of cases, severe physical abuse, labor, physical violence, and trafficking. International law alsoSenegalese authorities have chosen to avoid affords children the rights to health, physical development,any challenge to the country’s powerful education, and recreation, obligating the state, parents, and those in whose care a child finds himself to fulfill these rights.religious leaders, including individualmarabouts. The state is the primary entity responsible for protecting the rights of children within its borders, something which the government of Senegal has failed to do. With the exception ofstudies while assisting with cultivation in the marabout’s a few modern daaras—which are supported by thefields. Begging, if performed at all, was rather a collection of government and combine Quranic and state school curricula–meals from community families. Today, hundreds of not one of the Quranic schools in Senegal is subject to anythousands of talibés in Senegal attend Quranic schools, many form of government regulation. In the last decade, thein combination with state schools, and the practice often government has notably defined forced begging as a worstremains centered on religious and moral education. Yet for at form of child labor and criminalized forcing another intoleast 50,000 children, including many brought from begging for economic gain, but this adequate legislation hasneighboring countries, marabouts have profited from the so far led to little concrete action. Rather than hold maraboutsabsence of government regulation by twisting religious accountable for forced begging, gross neglect, or, in all but theeducation into economic exploitation. rarest of cases, severe physical abuse, Senegalese authoritiesThe forced begging, physical abuse, and dangerous daily have chosen to avoid any challenge to the country’s powerfulliving conditions endured by these talibés violate domestic religious leaders, including individual marabouts.10 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 11. Countries from which a large number of talibés are sent to A woman working in a small shop hands a talibé sugar cubes toSenegal, particularly Guinea-Bissau, have likewise failed to contribute toward the daily quota that he must bring to his Quranicprotect their children from the abuse and exploitation that teacher. Like many other talibés who lack adequate medical care insideawait them in many urban Quranic schools in Senegal. The the daaras, this child visibly suffers from a skin disease.Bissau-Guinean government has yet to formally criminalize © 2010 Ricci Shryockchild trafficking and, even under existing legal standards, hasbeen unwilling to hold marabouts accountable for the illegalcross-border movement of children. Guinea-Bissau has also Dozens of Senegalese and international aid organizationsfailed domestically to fulfill the right to education—around 60 have worked admirably to fill the protection gap left by statepercent of children are not in its school system—forcing many authorities. Organizations provide tens of centers for runawayparents to view Quranic schools in Senegal as the only viable talibés; work to sensitize parents on the difficult conditions inoption for their children’s education. the daara; and administer food, healthcare, and other basic services to talibés. Yet in some cases, they have actuallyParents and families, for their part, often send children to made the problem worse. By focusing assistance largely ondaaras without providing any financial assistance. After urban daaras, some aid organizations have incentivizedinformally relinquishing parental rights to the marabout, marabouts to leave villages for the cities, where they forcesome then turn a blind eye to the abuses their child endures. talibés to beg. By failing to adequately monitor howMany talibés who run away and make it home are returned to marabouts use assistance, some organizations have madethe marabout by their parents, who are fully aware that the the practice even more profitable–while marabouts receivechild will suffer further from forced begging and often extreme aid agency money with one hand, they push their talibés tocorporal punishment. For these children, home is no longer a continue begging with the other. And by treading delicately inrefuge, compounding the abuse they endure in the daara and their effort to maintain relations with marabouts, many aidleading them to plan their next escapes to a shelter or the organizations have ceased demanding accountability andstreet. have failed to report obvious abuse.Human Rights Watch | April 2010 11
  • 12. Under the Convention on the Rights of theChild, the Covenant on Economic, Social andCultural Rights, and the African Charter onthe Rights and Welfare of the Child the stateis obliged to ensure that children haveaccess to a compulsory, holistic primaryeducation that will equip them with the basicskills they need to participate fully andactively in society.The government of Senegal has launched an initiative tocreate and subject to regulation 100 modern daaras between2010 and 2012. While the regulation requirement in thesenew schools is a long-overdue measure, the limited numberof daaras affected means that the plan will have little impacton the tens of thousands of talibés who are already living inexploitative daaras. The government must therefore coupleefforts to introduce modern daaras with efforts, thus farentirely absent, to hold marabouts accountable forexploitation and abuse.Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, theCovenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and theAfrican Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child thestate is obliged to ensure that children have access to acompulsory, holistic primary education that will equip themwith the basic skills they need to participate fully and activelyin society. In addition to supporting the introduction ofmodern daaras, the government of Senegal should thereforeensure that children have the choice of access to free primaryeducation through state schools or other means.Without enforced regulation of daaras and success onaccountability, the phenomenon of forced child begging willcontinue its decades-long pattern of growth. If theSenegalese government wants to retain its place as a leadingrights-respecting democracy in West Africa, it must takeimmediate steps to protect these children who have beenneglected by their parents and exploited and abused in thesupposed name of religion.12 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 13. A group of talibés share porridge that one of the boys bought from asmall food stall. Despite returning each day to the daara with money,rice, and sugar, the vast majority of talibés must beg or pay for theirown food, leaving many malnourished.© 2008 Thomas LekfeldtHuman Rights Watch | April 2010 13
  • 14. Young talibés sleep on thin mats on the dirt floor in their daara.Because of overcrowding and poor sanitation in many daaras,diseases spread quickly.© 2006 Roy Burroughs
  • 15. RECOMMENDATIONSTO THE GOVERNMENT OF SENEGAL• Enforce current domestic law that criminalizes — Provide additional resources to civil and forcing another into begging for economic gain— border police units, particularly in the specifically, article 3 of Law No. 2005-06— regions of Ziguinchor and Kolda, to enhance including by investigating and holding their capacity to deter child trafficking. accountable in accordance with fair trial — Improve and require periodic training for standards marabouts and others who force police units to ensure that they know the children to beg. laws governing movements of children across borders. — Consider amending the law to provide for a greater range of penalties, reducing the • Express support, from the highest levels of range of punishment to include only non- government, for the prosecution of marabouts custodial sentences and prison sentences who violate laws against forced begging, abuse, under two years, from the present and trafficking. mandatory two to five years, so that • Relevant authorities within the Ministries of punishments can be better apportioned to Interior and Justice should monitor, investigate, the severity of exploitation. and, where there is evidence, discipline police, — Create a registry of marabouts who are investigating judges, and prosecutors who documented by authorities to have forced persistently fail to act on allegations of abuse children to beg for money, or who are and exploitation by marabouts. convicted for physical abuse or for being grossly negligent in a child’s care. • Issue clear directives to the Brigade des mineurs• Enforce article 298 of the penal code that (Juvenile Police) to proactively investigate abuse criminalizes the physical abuse of children, with and exploitation, including during street patrols. the exception of “minor assaults,” including by • Increase police capacity, particularly within the investigating and holding accountable in Juvenile Police, including through increased accordance with fair trial standards marabouts staffing and equipment, in order to better enforce and others who physically abuse talibés. existing laws against forced begging and — Amend the law to include specific reference physical abuse. to all forms of corporal punishment in — Provide adequate training to the Juvenile schools, in accordance with international Police on methods for interviewing children, law, including the Convention on the Rights and for protecting and assisting victims of of the Child and the African Charter on the severe physical and psychological trauma, Rights and Welfare of the Child. including sexual abuse. — Amend the law to ensure that it holds responsible a marabout who oversees, • Ensure that children, aid workers, and others orders, or fails to prevent or punish an have a safe and accessible means of reporting assistant teacher who inflicts physical abuse abuse or exploitation, including by better on a talibé. publicizing the state’s child-protection hotline managed by the Centre Ginddi in Dakar, and by• Enforce anti-trafficking provisions under Law No. extending availability of hotlines and assistance 2005-06, which criminalizes child trafficking in elsewhere in Senegal. accordance with the United Nations Trafficking in Persons Protocol.16 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 16. • Introduce a law requiring humanitarian workers empower inspectors to sanction or close to report to the police incidents of abuse, daaras that do not meet standards that exploitation, and violations of relevant laws protect the best interests of the child. governing the treatment of children, including • Direct the Juvenile Police to investigate the the law on forced begging. extent to which sexual abuse exists in daaras throughout Senegal. Engage talibés, marabouts,• Require all daaras to be registered and period- the police, parents, community authorities, and ically inspected by state officials. Islamic and humanitarian organizations in — Enact legislation setting minimum standards establishing and publicizing adequate protection under which daaras must operate, with mechanisms for children who are victims of particular attention to daaras that operate sexual abuse. as residential schools. • Task a minister with coordinating the state — Encourage child protection authorities to response from the various ministries. collaborate with Islamic authorities on the development of these standards, which • Improve statistic-keeping on the number of should include: minimum hours of study; talibés and Quranic teachers who come into promotion and development of the child’s contact with state authorities, including: talibés talent and abilities to their fullest potential, who are in conflict with the law; talibés who run either within the daaras or in another away and are recovered by state authorities; and educational establishment; minimum living Quranic teachers who are arrested and conditions; the maximum number of children prosecuted for forcing another into begging, per Quranic teacher; qualifications for physical abuse, or other abuses against children. opening a residential daara; and registration of the daara for state inspection. • Ensure the elimination of informal fees and other — Expand the capacity and mandate of state barriers to children accessing primary education daara inspectors in order to improve the in state schools. monitoring of daaras throughout Senegal;TO THE GOVERNMENT OF GUINEA-BISSAU• Enact and enforce legislation that criminalizes — Improve and require periodic training for child trafficking, including sanctions for those border units to ensure that they know the who hire, employ, or encourage others to traffic laws governing movements of children children on their behalf, and for those who aid across borders. and abet trafficking either in the country of • Continue progress on the regulation of religious origin or country of destination. schools. Work closely with religious leaders to devise appropriate curricula, teacher standards,• Enact and enforce legislation that criminalizes and registration and enrollment requirements. forced child begging for economic gain. • Ensure the elimination of informal fees and other• Publicly declare that forced child begging is a barriers to children accessing primary education, worst form of child labor; follow with appropriate in an effort to better progressively realize the legislation. right to education for the 60 percent of Bissau-• Increase the capacity of civil and border police Guinean children currently outside the state units, particularly in the regions of Bafatá and school system. Gabú, to deter child trafficking and other illegal cross-border movements of children.Human Rights Watch | April 2010 17
  • 17. RECOMMENDATIONSTO THE GOVERNMENTS OF SENEGAL AND GUINEA-BISSAU• Improve collaboration to deter the illegal cross- — coordinate strategies to deter the illegal border migration and trafficking of children from cross-border movement of children; and Guinea-Bissau into Senegal, including through — facilitate the return of children who have additional joint training of border and civil police. been trafficked, and ensure that they receive minimum standards of care and supervision.• Enter into a bilateral agreement to: • Collaborate with religious leaders, traditional — formally harmonize legal definitions for what leaders, and nongovernmental organizations to consistutes the illegal cross-border raise awareness in communities on the rights of movement of children; the child under international and domestic law, as well as within Islam.TO RELIGIOUS LEADERS, INCLUDING CALIPHS OF THE BROTHERHOODS, IMAMS,AND GRAND MARABOUTS• Denounce marabouts who engage in the • Introduce, including during the Friday prayer exploitation and abuse of children within daaras. (jumu’ah), discussion of children’s rights in Islam.TO INTERNATIONAL AND NATIONAL HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS• Explicitly condition funding for marabouts and • Stop returning runaway talibés who have been daaras on the elimination of forced begging and victims of physical abuse or economic physical abuse, and on minimum living and exploitation to the marabout. Bring the child to health conditions within the daara. state authorities so that the Ministry of Justice can perform a thorough review of the child’s — Improve monitoring to determine if situation and determine what environment will marabouts who receive funds are using them protect the child’s best interests. to achieve the prescribed goals. — Cease funding for marabouts who • Focus greater efforts on supporting initiatives in demonstrate a lack of progress toward village daaras and state schools to enable eliminating child begging, particularly those children in rural areas to access an education who continue to demand a quota from their that equips them with the basic skills they will talibés or who continue to physically abuse need to participate fully and actively in society, or neglect them. so that children do not need to move to towns• Implement organizational policies and codes of and cities to access quality education. conduct requiring humanitarian workers to report • Increase pressure on the government of Senegal to state authorities incidents of abuse and to enforce its laws on forced begging, child violations of relevant laws governing the abuse, and child trafficking. treatment of children whom they directly encounter, including the 2005 law on trafficking and forced begging.18 “Off the Backs of the Children”
  • 18. A magistrate restores custody of five boys who fled from Quranic teachers that forced them tobeg on the streets of Dakar, Senegal, to their relatives in Gabú, Guinea-Bissau. Hundreds oftalibés run away from their daaras each year, tired of the abuse and exploitation.© 2008 AP PhotoTO THE UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON CONTEMPORARY FORMS OF SLAVERY• Consider an investigation into the situation of the tens of thousands of children in Senegal who are forced to beg by their Quranic teachers, which appears to qualify as a practice akin to child slavery.TO THE ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES• Work with governments in the region to improve collective response to child trafficking.TO THE ORGANISATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE• Denounce the practice of forced begging and physical abuse in Quranic schools as in conflict with the Cairo Declaration and other international human rights obligations.Human Rights Watch | April 2010 19
  • 19. Talibés beg at night around a gas station in Dakar. Afraid of the beatingsthat frequently await them if they fail to return to the daara with thedaily quota, many talibés beg on the streets late into the night.© 2010 Ricci Shryock
  • 20. (front cover) Three talibés ask a taxi driver for money on a street inH UMA N R I G H TS WATCH H U M A N the Senegalese capital, Dakar. They each carry a tomato can to collect350 Fifth Avenue, 34 th Floor money, rice, and sugar to bring back to their Quranic teacher.New York, NY 10118-3299 © 2008 Thomas Lekfeldt (below) A talibé sits on the concrete floor of his daara in a Dakar R I G H T S suburb, where he also sleeps. All of a talibé’s possessions are oftenwww.hrw.org kept in a small backpack hung in the daara. W A T C H © 2010 Ricci ShryockTens of thousands of children attending residentialQuranic schools, or daaras, in Senegal are subjected toconditions that meet the international definition of beingakin to slavery, and are forced to endure often extremeforms of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by the teachers,or marabouts, who serve as their de facto guardians. Thevast majority of these children, known as talibés, are under12 years old, though many are as young as four. By nomeans do all Quranic schools run such regimes, but manyteachers force the children to beg on the streets for longhours—a practice that meets the international definition ofa worst form of child labor. The marabouts are also grosslynegligent in fulfilling the children’s basic needs, includingfood, shelter, and healthcare. In thousands of cases,children, including many from Guinea-Bissau, are victimsof trafficking.The Senegalese and Bissau-Guinean governments, Islamicauthorities under whose auspices the schools operate,and parents have all failed to protect these children. TheSenegalese authorities have made next to no effort to holdperpetrators accountable, despite applicable laws thatcriminalize forced begging, and have balked at regulatingthe vast majority of daaras, apparently allowing fear ofpolitical backlash from religious authorities to trump thechildren’s welfare. Well-intentioned aid agenciesattempting to fill the protection gap have too oftenemboldened the perpetrators by giving aid directly tomarabouts who abuse talibés, insufficiently monitoringthe use of such aid, and failing to report abuse.This Human Rights Watch report concludes that withoutstate regulation and a commitment to hold accountablethose that abuse and exploit these boys, the widespreadproblem of forced child begging in Senegal will worsen. Itsfindings are based on interviews with 175 current andformer talibés, as well as some 120 others, includingmarabouts, families who sent children to residentialQuranic schools, religious historians, government officials,and humanitarian officials.