Saturday Dec 3, 2022
Saturday Dec 3, 2022

Street children at high risk of exploitation

They often fall prey to sexual predators, gangs and dangerous criminals

2022 May 04, 6:08, Kathmandu
Photo : Representative picture /flickr

Most street children in Kathmandu ran away from their homes to escape violence and poverty but the streets they have taken to are a feeding ground for abuse and exploitation. These children often fall prey and to sexual predators and dangerous criminals. Often caught up in a web of crime, abuse and exploitation these children live in poor conditions without any parental support or security and are exposed to drugs, crimes and hazardous jobs.

According to the Resource and Information Centre of Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) there are around 5000 street children all over Nepal. In Kathmandu alone, it is estimated that the number of street children is approximately 1200-1500.

In conversation with NepalNews, Superintendent of Kathmandu Metropolitan Police, Santosh Singh Rathour said, “The metropolitan police have rescued 124 female children and 120 male children just this year from the streets. We try to contact the children’s family members and if we fail to do so we send the rescued children to different organizations who can provide them with food and shelter.”

“Sometimes, the children we rescue are from far away districts who had gone missing for a very long time. We try to reunite such children with their parents,” he adds. SP Rathour was reluctant about disclosing the crime records of street children, as they are minors and not subjected to any penalty, yet he hinted that they do get involved in theft on a recurrent basis.

Photo: Report on mapping street children of Kathmandu Valley / Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Central Child Welfare Board Nepal
Photo: Report on mapping street children of Kathmandu Valley / Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, Central Child Welfare Board Nepal

“Among the millions of children who are engaged in child labor in Nepal, around 5 thousand of them live on the streets,” says Krishna Thapa, the founder of Voice of Children (VOC). “The sexual abuse of male street children is a big issue among the street children of Nepal, As per our investigation, I have found more than 40 foreigners living in Nepal for a long time, sexually abusing male street children,” says Thapa.

In partnership with the Government of Nepal and Save the Children, VOC aims to prevent further increase in the number of street children in Nepal by working with vulnerable families living in urban areas. VOC currently operates in 60 districts of Nepal, with 400 plus volunteers.

So far, the campaign launched by the Government of Nepal, under the leadership of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli in the year 2016, has rescued 574 street children from various parts of the country. The Government of Nepal has aims to make Nepal ‘street children free’ through further implementation and intervention rescue campaigns.

 The Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens is coordinating with the National Child Rights Council and different organizations to rescue and rehabilitate street children in Nepal. According to the National Child Rights Council, 255 rescued children are in the contact center, 99 in the socialization center, 50 in the child shelter and 810 have been handed over to their respective families. Similarly, 184 rescued street children were sent for training and 59 of them are already working in various capacities as of 2020.

However the journal published by the Centre for Research on Education Health and Social Science (CREHSS) Kathmandu, in the year 2020, states that the issue of street children has not been addressed properly by the countries’ political authority. The study highlights the growing number of street children in Kathmandu and Birgunj as a grave problem existing currently in the Nepalese society.

Pie Chart: Causes of living in the streets / Nepalnews
Pie Chart: Causes of living in the streets / Nepalnews

The (CREHSS) study found that the leading cause of children not having a protective shelter and living on the streets of Kathmandu and Birgunj was family issues (43%) followed by poverty (29.3%) and social reasons (10.67%).

Families living under the poverty line in slums and hovels in big cities are unable to provide children with enough food, clothes, education and health care and as a result children move out of their homes into the streets, in search of sustenance.

Gender discrimination is a key factor for female children who run from their homes to live in the streets chased by stigma and prejudice of being a daughter in her family and neighborhood.

Police brutality has also emerged as an issue of concern amongst street children of Nepal. Some children now living at the VOC claim to have been severely beaten up by the police, who accused them of robbery. Similarly, the Resource and Information Centre for Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) also highlights the presence of police and criminal gangs who bully and abuse the children. According to their report, police had arrested 66 % of street children. Over 92% of them have been arrested for 5 times or more.

Street children also remain the most vulnerable to drug abuse and children as young as 9 years of age are known to regularly smoke marijuana. They are heavily exposed to psychoactive drugs that include benzene and glue sniffing, chewing 'chat', plastic along with using marijuana and hashish, shockingly even at just the age of six.


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